Tell me if you’ve experienced this: Someone on your Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or other social media just plain annoys you and you’re not sure why. They may not be posting excessive politics, spamming you with game requests, or blaring flat-earth conspiracies, but something about them gets under your skin. They’ve never done a thing malicious to you, and yet you dislike them strongly.
A quote by Marian Keyes has always stuck with me: “The things we dislike most in others are the characteristics we like least in ourselves.” Likewise, Carl Jung said, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” When someone causes you no harm or slight yet you still dislike them, chances are they stir some kind of insecurity or uncertainty deep in yourself. Perhaps they reflect a trait you dislike about yourself. Perhaps you envy them for something. Maybe you say some random YouTuber is extremely annoying but you actually just hate them for getting the Nintendo Switch a week early.
The next step is to determine exactly what the emotion is that they stir. Do you envy something this person has, such as popularity or economic status? Is something they do that you find annoying actually a character flaw of your own that you wish to change? Whether or not it’s conscious, we recognize our own flaws and deficiencies, and that in turn makes it easier to identify those traits in others.
In my sophomore year of college, I had a very strong dislike of my next-door neighbor in my dorm. He was a strange guy but ultimately meant well and never did anything to slight me. The thing was, though, he was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (more outgoing than the typical Aspie, but he showed the other symptoms strongly).
Why does that matter? So am I.
This man exhibited all of the traits and actions I felt ashamed to do or have done. He went to strange lengths to impress girls and weirded them out in the process. He was painfully awkward socially. He failed to grasp many social norms. All of these things I did or experienced in one way or another and occasionally still fall victim to. He repeatedly reminded me of things I disliked about myself, creating animosity he did not deserve in the slightest.
It took a while to understand, but I finally realized that those things he did I found so annoying was just projection on my part. He represented everything I wished I wasn’t. The epiphany itself wasn’t enough. I had to look at myself, forgive my stumbles, and accept my faults. This mental reframing took some time (and I still sometimes stumble back into it), but my animosity slowly crumbled away.
I came to see him as a kindred spirit caught in a situation similar to mine. He helped me to realize those things he reflected in me weren’t so bad after all. More importantly, they could be overcome.
Now it’s time to think about the Facebook bugs in your ears. Journal about or meditate on it. When you identify the insecurity that a person you dislike for seemingly no good reason breeds, you can address the real problem instead of projecting it onto someone else. After all, toxic emotions can breed unwanted health problems. Why not help yourself instead of hurting?
There is of course one more benefit to identifying these projected insecurities: It lets you see others as human beings, not two-dimensional pests. This can lead to genuine friendships, or some good ol’ stress relief if nothing else. Dropping the hate in your heart makes you a more attractive and magnetic person, and there is nothing bad about that. Pluck that Facebook bug from your ear today and become a better person.