How far would you go for a ‘like’?
Are you nobody until somebody ‘likes’ you? With social media officially the way we measure our social standing, how far will we go to seek validation?
ocial media is our generation’s drug of choice. It’s been reported that 72% of us check Facebook before going to sleep, over 6 000 tweets are sent every second and over 400 million people use Instagram each month. Whether you’re an Instagrammer, Tumblrer or Tweeter, we’re all looking for the same thing – a slice of the online limelight.
There’s no denying that social media has built careers and brought us some amazing trends (from spiralising to holiday hot dog legs). It’s a wonderful telescope into other people’s lives, a way to seek kinship and a platform we can all use to celebrate and share important moments in our lives. However, researchers have a name for our obsession with how we’re perceived by others: ‘narcissism epidemic’.
In our worlds, we’re the celebrity, and “the heady digital cocktail of ‘always-on’ connectivity and instant access to idealised imagery encourages narcissistic behaviour and amplifies anxieties,” says social media expert Alexei Lee. “Narcissism is often misused as a way to describe vanity. The true definition of a narcissist is someone who worries about their selfimage and ability. Their anxieties are manifested as a search for validation.”
So how and why has our ‘online status’ become so crucial to us? Perhaps it began in 2004 with the introduction of Facebook and the race to accrue friends. Or perhaps it’s connected to our celebrity culture in which people are made overnight and stay relevant by doing something bigger and better than before.
“We live in a world where it’s normal – and, importantly, easy – to form relationships based on a popularity score,” says Alexei. Let’s be honest, how many of our feeds show the reality – PJS, eye bags and all? I didn’t think so. So does Generation Validation need to stop viewing the world through rose-coloured filters? Read these stories, then decide.
“A couple of years ago I lost quite a bit of weight and posted the first bikini snap I’d dared to post in years. The reaction was amazing: people I hardly knew told me how incredible I looked and it spurred me on to continue the diet. The thinner I got, the more people congratulated me. After a while, the comments got less frequent and I wondered why, wracked with self-doubt. It was only when someone DMD me asking if I was OK that I realised I’d gone too far. By that point I weighed under 44kg and, in hindsight, I looked skeletal. So I guess I have Facebook to blame for making me lose sight of myself, and to thank for eventually making me see sense.” – Holly, 29, nurse “I love fashion and used to post pictures of my outfit on Instagram every day. I’d spend hours choosing the right clothes and accessories and quickly gained over 1 000 followers. One day, my picture only got 11 likes, while I’d been used to getting over 100 every day. I was gutted and knew I’d never be able to wear that outfit again, even though I’d previously loved it.” – Jenny, 26, marketing executive
“I’m not afraid of being too revealing when it comes to posting images of my body. I have zero limits about nudity, because it’s a form of art for me.” – Kitso, 23, student
“I suffer from manic depression. Sometimes my posts are a little ‘out there’, and they can be a bit dark. I’m not intentionally attention-seeking, though I imagine some people think I am. But the occasional kind comment always goes a long way, and it can be what I need to completely turn my mood around.” – April, 30, student
“I’ve always found that it’s the more controversial posts – the raw, real-life stuff – that get the best response in my blogs. After going for my smear test, for example, I posted about the cringe-worthy chat I’d had with the nurse, legs splayed, as she struggled to find my “elusive cervix”. The post prompted over 50 comments and loads of hilarious horror stories from other women.” – Jo, 37, blogger