Social Media “High”

We all know this feeling I am about to share about.

We post something on Facebook, say our latest huge experiment, or a scathing takedown of a celebrity making a fool of himself or herself . Or, we let fly a clever tweet paired with a clever hashtag we’re certain is going to go viral.

Then, crickets. As in, no “likes,” no retweets, no nothing……..

And how does all this make us feel? More insignificant than if we’d posted nothing at all.

That’s the power, and danger, of social media .

A bosom friend of mine recently complained that no one was responding to her Instagram status updates. The blog she posted had received meagre followers. She couldn’t understand why people would be so cruel as to ignore her. She seemed genuinely hurt. And of course I had to be concerned because she has seemingly been a strong, go getter.

She made the mistake that a lot of people make. Not just people desperate for attention, but average everyday folks eager for someone to listen, to find them clever, or funny, or sympathetic, or intelligent.

People are looking for love and acceptance and a ‘sense of belonging” — or “likes” — in all the wrong places. In social media, amongst strangers who have their own issues to deal with.

I’m too, vulnerable to a social media affliction similar to my friend’s malady. Let’s call it the Acceptance Disorder. The reaction, or lack of reaction, to these mini versions of myself — which is what an update, tweet or other online comment is all about — can hit me hard.

I fall prey to the affection of numbers which is a farce.

In my mind, how many people retweet, “like,” or comment on something I’ve posted, can become dangerously synonymous with acceptance, belonging, or even love. I say this as a sometimes shallow, attention-seeking person, but also as an observer of the ways social media has distorted our collective sense of self-worth.

There are many ways that Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are wonderful. But they can also feel like popularity contests as cutthroat as teenage high school cliques…

This weekend, I threw up a flippant post about parenting (once again). Only seven people commented.

What, wasn’t I funny enough, appealing enough? I wondered. Did I hit my fans with some information they didn’t find appealing.

And In my more needy states, the effects of not being “liked” or “shared” becomes the equivalent of not being asked to the big dance. These are my own demons, my own foolish thoughts. I am shocked when I find myself thinking them(I am keeping it real 100%). But I will say, in my defense, that social media has done an admirable job in a matter of a few years redefining the community from which we seek feedback about ourselves though not necessary.
This virtual call and response; this social media echo chamber is not entirely healthy. It doesn not also feel healthy.

Progressively, it is an ever-growing web of eerie, self-styled-friends who validate, judge, like, mock, friend, unfriend, and block us, their numerous responses and reactions sometimes overwhelming us.

But imagine when we do get encouraging feedback — or even extreme affirmation in response to a post. Such as, more than 1k friends liking a post, or more than 500 people adding their two cents to a pool of comments. How does that make us feel? Most likely, astounding.

A recent story I wrote has, at last count, been liked more than 19,000 times.

So I felt good about myself, right? I got that little high. “I am the IT” Like an addict, I felt that ego boost and noted a slightly more favorable view of myself. Perhaps I am OK, smart enough, good enough, intelligent enough all that.

Nevertheless these ecstatic feelings are fleeting. The burst of self-worth fades. Soon, I want that “hit” again. The cycle continues. And I am again reminded that this virtual call and response, this social media echo chamber feels not entirely healthy.

At least for someone like me, someone who is, yes, superficial and shallow at times, but also hankering to connect with real humans and not only their eerie presences on the internet. Stay woke my Sisters and Brothers!

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