Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat – these apps have become a part of our everyday lives. Twitter gives you the opportunity to share your voice with the Twittersphere via short blurbs of words. Facebook helps you stay connected to friends, family, coworkers etc. via postings of words, pictures, videos, and more. Instagram is for pictures to show your followers the visual highlights of your life. Lastly, Snapchat focuses on sending and receiving quick photos or videos while also allowing you to post such content to your own page for 24 hours. What do these apps have in common? Well, they are platforms in which we are posting content, of course – but the characteristic that makes these apps both similar and attractive is the social aspect. You have the opportunity to like, comment, share, and reply to the posts of your friends list and vice versa. I’m sure you have experienced receiving a like on a perfectly crafted picture on Instagram or on your “I got a new job!” Facebook post. I can only speak for myself, but I will posit that a good number of people feel a sense of joy when they get these likes. But, have you ever wondered why? Let’s dive in.
I can remember countless times where I tweeted something funny on my Twitter account and received some likes and replies. This always gave me a great feeling, as if I was some sort of comedian only my followers could understand and appreciate (I did win “Most Likely to Tweet About It” in High School, after all). I can also remember countless times where I tweeted something funny and received no likes or replies. “But this is some good content, this is hilarious" I would think to myself. It would even, bum me out a little. Why? Well, it seems as if receiving feedback on such content, provides us with some sort of validation. The likes validate the ideas we have about ourselves – that we are funny, for example – and connects us more to our peers. It can give us the confidence we are lacking. Though, a lack of such validation, can do just the opposite. Think about a time when you made a joke to a group of people and everyone laughed. Felt good, right? Now think about the same scenario, but this time the joke was ignored or receive a pity chuckle. I bet you felt pretty lame. This experience is virtually the same on social media – it’s just a bit more removed. We want to be validated! And when we are, it feels good.
There have been times where I had a crush on someone or was seeing someone, and would scroll through my Instagram likes on a recently posted photo to see if said person made the list. If they did, it would be great! And if they did not – well it was a disappointment. This may resemble validation, but it ties more into wanting to feel important to someone we have feelings for, and wanting to know if they are thinking of us. Maybe you have glanced at who viewed your Snapchat Story, and your crush was not on the list. This experience can make you feel as if they do not have reciprocating feelings and can be a bummer. Think about a time where you were doing something impressive, maybe juggling (or that's just me) in a group, but your crush is not even paying attention. I will bet you felt disappointed and insignificant, even just for a moment. See the connection? Social media exemplifies these everyday experiences but allows them to happen constantly.
Social media has its positives and negatives, as does every part of life. Enjoy the connectedness you gain, but be mindful of the validation issues and potential disappointment. We are social creatures that want to be accepted, and that’s okay!
Just remember – likes aren’t everything.