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?

Glamour (South Africa) - - Real life -

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

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