In recent months, it’s become a running joke to comment on my need for validation. I’m not alone. Multiple people on my news feed have made personally satirical captions for their posts, explaining their need for people to recognize their efforts and “like” their content. In a way, our dependency on our social circles to validate our social media efforts has become hyper-visible and accepted in our internet-mediated culture.
Social Media has become an integral portion of an ordinary member of society’s routine. To not engage on social media is, in some circles, unheard of and a sign of antisocial behavior. But, is social media inherently a good platform for giving us the satisfaction of a community? Some scholars say no. In her article, “Seeking Validation Online Doesn’t Bring Real Happiness”, Beverly Flaxington explains the destructive nature of social media to our self-esteem and to our interactions with others.
In her article, Flaxington describes the incident of the Australian Instagram and Facebook celebrity, Essena O’Neil, who decided to leave social media because of its manipulative control over her self-perception. The Australian social media guru discovered she was continually comparing herself to others. She relied on showing a perfected life to her followers instead of portraying an honest and sincere person on social media. Essena was consumed with getting likes and becoming part of the “elite,” rather than using social media to legitimately connect with others. Social media became less of a way to feel joy and more of a job that “consumed” her daily life.
This is not a singular occurrence among those who reach fame online. Regular users of social media platforms feel this need to perfect their lives on social media, always experimenting with their content to find the perfect formula to succeed in the form of “likes” and “shares.” Those with lower self-confidence are more inclined to compare themselves to others on social media. As Flaxington puts it, “By constantly comparing themselves to apparently perfect images online, social media users whose self-confidence is lacking can become more anxious or depressed over what others seem to have and they don’t. That nagging feeling of not being able to measure up will only lead to less self-confidence and an erosion of self-worth. Each log-in can chip away just a bit more of any good feeling a person might have had.”
There is some solace for those who feel there is no escape from this constant need for approval. Flaxington offers some advice:
- Unplug from social media. There is no need to go cold-turkey, but a decrease in the amount you check your platforms can lead to a better self-perception.
- Stop constantly comparing yourself to others. It is important to understand that most people only post the positive parts of their lives, the moments which are acceptable to broadcast to a large mass of people. By comparing your entire life to these few posts, you are relying on a dream life that doesn’t exist, at least not on its own.
- Speak positively about yourself! Give yourself credit for what you have, and what you have achieved. By boosting your self-image, your reliance on social media will decrease.
- In accordance with #3, do things that make you happy! Worry less about how well your activities are received on social media and care more about how they made you feel at the moment. Not everyone is going to care about your walk in the park, but if it was special to you, that’s all that matters!
- Finally, try to communicate with people face to face more often. By taking the friendships you have built online to the real world, you build the network of people you can rely on for emotional support.
Breaking the habit of relying on social media is an ideologically transforming task. The youngest generation has grown up with the overwhelming presence of social media. To break a habit so ingrained into our process of socialization is beyond difficult. Humans are social beings because we rely on the company of others. Social Media is marketed to be another avenue for this need, but we sometimes forget that we aren’t just being social. We are consuming media. The entertaining and consuming content driven behemoth which we have been extremely reliant on in the past century.
Hopefully, we will realize that the validation that comes from social media isn’t what we want it to be. True validation comes from the relationships and experiences we engage with in our everyday lives. Unplug, experience life with friends, and MAYBE post about it.
To read the PsychologyToday article by Flaxington, follow the link below: