Getting the most Likes, Instagram models quitting social media, constantly comparing your life to someone else… I think we’re doing social media wrong.
You’ve seen the headlines. Another queen of social media has come out labeling the entire platform as a sham. Extremely popular Sunshine Coast Insta-Model Essena O’Neill recently cancelled her popular account and started up the site Let’s Be Game Changers, aiming to tear down and raise awareness of the fallacy of Instagram and similar applications, stating emphatically that social media isn’t real. One of many account holders to make some decent money from posting her photos, the 19 year old has finally had enough of the make-up, angles, filters and poses in order to attract a massive amount of likes.
There’s no denying that social media has completely changed the game when it comes to online interactivity, meeting and developing friendships, business, and even just how we browse the Web in general. I remember reading a while ago that Facebook is now the primary mechanism by which most people access material on the Internet. Where it used to be that you’d open your browser and find it yourself, or even have those infamous FWD: FWD: RE: FWD: FWD: emails hit your inbox with a funny link, content is now completely targeted and delivered to us on our social platforms.
And with so many of us on all these platforms, using them every day, every hour, maybe even every few minutes, you’ve gotta wonder if the claims of some of these Social Celebrities are accurate. Is social media really the evil we make it out to be?
Or is it possible that we’re just doing social media wrong?
Looking for validation
I think one of the most interesting phenomenons in recent memory is the concept of a Like. Depending on your platform, it could also entail a Love or a Dislike. What exactly does that little loveheart or thumbs up actually mean? The concept of a voting system has been around for such a long time, especially on the Internet. Look at websites like Zomato or Reddit where people rank restaurants and internet content en masse. It can be kinda handy having peer recommendations on things like that.
But it’s a whole new ball game when the content being rated is essentially you. Whether it be your new profile pic, a rant you’ve been wanting to get off your chest, a funny video you put together or found, or just the fact you really enjoyed that movie on the weekend, every single item we share is up to the scrutiny of a private or sometimes even public fan base.
As a result, we do indeed have people like Essena who’ve made some pretty good money off of it. You’re helping drive advertisements and helping keep people on the platform, so you’re given a cut of the proceeds.
But I think what it really highlights is our search for validation. Every single one of us wants to feel loved and accepted. Someone to notice us. Someone to hear us. These are deep-seeded needs in the human psyche, and now all of a sudden we can find ourselves looking online for the things we don’t necessarily feel offline.
I think this is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, I think social media is an awesome opportunity to love on people. For instance, I recently posted a public facing comment on one of the walls of a youth leader I know, and dozens of people joined in to agree and share their thoughts on what a difference he makes in people’s lives. I look at stuff like that and I think wow, what a great opportunity to publicly honour someone. Public honour is something I am a massive fan of, because it’s such a powerful way to tell someone they’re loved and valued.
But on the other side, if we’re taking our insecurities to an arena where people will often just keep scrolling until something captures their attention and just hit Like on that, even though they may even love what you’ve put up but won’t actually say anything… we might be setting ourselves up for some heartbreak.
The comparison game and falsehood
It was really interesting to see the comment that social media is fake. And in some ways, it really can be. Given the acceptance model where subscribers, likes, and large fanbases drive content targeting and production, it’s pretty easy to see how we can end up giving people a fake happy clappy presentation of ourselves. It’s also somewhat easy to see how easy it is to fall into a trap of comparison. For instance, if you’re struggling to lose weight and you constantly get bombarded by the Fitsperation posts your friends are constantly making showing their perfect abs and proportions, it may be easy to take that as discouragement. If you’ve got no money left and someone has just posted about how their investments tripled overnight, it can be easy enough to develop envy or jealousy. Or look at that couple – they’re so much happier than my wife and I are.
I really love a comment one of my friends made a few years ago – Jealousy is making others’ success your failure. In other words, because someone else has done something well, jealousy is telling you that because it’s not your experience, you’ve failed.
But you haven’t necessarily failed.
Everyone is on their own journey. I think instead of letting the success of others dominate you and make you feel insignificant, you should use it as inspiration rather than condemnation. It’s never a healthy approach to life to do something just because you see someone else doing it.
Who am I, and what is my purpose in this world? How faithful am I being to the call on my life and the gifts I’ve been given? That should be my measure of success.
More connected than ever vs. being more disconnected than ever
I remember seeing a few articles asking this big question – Are Facebook friends real friends? Are your Insta followers actually following? Does your re-tweet count actually tell you that you and someone else are on the same page? Sometimes I see my friends quit Facebook with a massive rant about how they don’t actually feel connected to anyone online, how they can’t actually keep in touch, and how their friendships are feeling shallow.
Every time I see posts like that, I think… wait really?
Thanks to Facebook I’ve been able to keep in contact with sooooooo many people all around the world who’ve been an important part of my life at one time or another, and I know I really appreciate being able to hit a button and instantly reconnect or continue to connect with them. I love being able to follow their adventures and continue to be a part of their life, to varying degrees. Plus they can share with me in my adventures. Sure, I may not message every single person on my list every single day, but I’m presented with a tool that let’s me develop my friendships if I really make an intentional effort to do so. It’s not a replacement for face to face, but it’s such a powerful addition to it.
Because I don’t have to say goodbye any more. I just say, see you online. And I still can. What a great way to stay connected. When I look at my laptop or my PC or my phone, I can still look at you too.
I think what really makes people feel disconnected is when they post things that are important to them but they’re either criticized for having problems, or seemingly ignored. Maybe we should be keeping these things in mind the next time we see someone we know put something up that seems to be a cry for help… because it probably is.
Use the tool well
I guess in short – social media is a tool. It’s like a hammer. I could use a hammer for its intended purpose of putting nails in walls or furniture. I could use it for less conventional purposes like breaking the ice at a party (as in a bag of party ice… unless you use a hammer as a talking point) or for holding something up a little bit. Or I could use it to destroy objects or even people. Social media is the same. You can use your powers for good or for evil.
So I don’t think our problems rest in the fact that social media exists… I think they’ve occurred because we’ve been doing social media wrong in so many ways. Use it to foster real relationships, not to augment fake ones. Build your business online. Target your content to people who are actually looking for content like yours to enjoy. All the good things we’re able to do in our new doggone-fangled 21st century technermalogy-whozzaa-whatsit. It’s a good day to be alive.
And hey, at the end of the day… don’t be fake. In any area of your life. Don’t put up an image that isn’t you. Don’t wear a mask of falsehood or distance. Wherever you are, be you, and be fully you. You deserve to be seen, and you’re pretty great.
So just some thoughts on how I’ve felt we’ve been doing social media wrong, and maybe some ideas on how we can use it right. What do you think about the social media phenomenon and how we’re using it?