You are not the sum of your “likes.”
When I was a child, our equivalent of social media was strolling around the neighborhood chatting with friends, a night at the movies or a trip to the skating rink. Long conversations on the telephone often meant grabbing a pillow and lying on the floor, tethered to a handset with a long, coiled wire. We would arrive at school early to allow time to chat with friends, and quietly pass notes to each other in class.
We didn’t post birthday or holiday greetings on the internet. We hugged our family members and friends, and wished them such in person.
As we grew older, the skating rinks were replaced with coffee shops and restaurants, and on special occasions, we’d snap a photo or two of the group and eagerly wait for the negatives to be developed into photos that we could hold in our hands and paste in photo albums that would someday be shared with our children and their children.
The advent of digital cameras paved the way to having such devices contained within our cell phones, available at any given time to capture our lives in pixels.
Somewhere along the way, photos of family gatherings and scenic vacations became secondary to moment after moment of self-celebrations via what would come to be known, quite appropriately, as “selfies.”
They have evolved into the glorious, strategically angled, carefully lit and often subsequently filtered snapshots of life, documenting everything from the meaningful to the mundane. Social media posts include half a dozen or more shots of the newest haircut, makeup job, dress or suit, filtered “me” poses and a plethora of photos at a social gathering in which the selfie taker is the sun, bathed in light, surrounded by self-perceived adoring friends in the background shadows.
The images are transferred from phone to social media posts and artificial validation began.
Think about it: have you ever seen anyone respond to self-posts, “Looking rough, girlfriend,” or “Dude, have you been to the gym lately?” In the world of social media, people are compelled to “like” and leave polite comments, calling the selfie poster “beautiful,” “handsome” or “adorable.” It’s standard social media etiquette.
And the more positive comments the poster receives, the more selfies he or she is compelled to post. It’s a vicious cycle.
How many “likes” does one need to feel validated? And at what point is enough enough?
Most importantly, what are we, as social media consumers, teaching our children? That their worth is largely in part based on the compliments posted by family, friends and acquaintances on the pixelated fragments of our existence? How many of our children, and their children, will come to believe that their worth is largely dependent upon comments from cyberspace?
At what point do we, as society, encourage the self-absorbed to put down the cell phones and let go of the need to capture every waking moment of their existence not for the purpose of preserving memories, but primarily as a means of seeking validation? At what point do we encourage people to celebrate others more than they celebrate themselves?
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that there is a time and a place for photos, and that even simple everyday moments are worthy of becoming memories. It’s when the capturing of such moments becomes obsessive that our concerns should lie.
It’s time we spend less time seeking compliments via social media, and more time living in the moment. Because, as the saying goes, what others think of you is none of your business. The only opinions that you should seek are the authentic sentiments shared by family and friends, those who know the real you and value the beauty of your heart and soul even more than your outer beauty. They love “real” you, not “social media” you.
And in the end, that’s the only “you” that matters.