Suppressed in the back of my mind are the memories of a frizzy haired little thirteen year old girl with mounds of cheap makeup and American Eagle clothing. I often look back at it now, and ask myself “why did people hate me so much as to let me leave the house looking like that?”
I remember buying a seven megapixel cyber-shot camera when I was only thirteen years old and shamelessly uploading nearly every single bathroom “selfie” I took to Facebook, back when Facebook was just becoming popular and people actually used it for pictures rather than “poking” people or ranting about how agonizingly demanding their first world lives are. It was an era when Facebook was “cool” and Myspace had reached its demise. At that point in the social media world, nobody had ever heard of Instagram, and vaguely of Twitter. It is so astonishing how we have evolved as a society ever since Facebook, Instagram etc. have come to rise, especially my generation- who interact more via social networking than they do face to face. What complexes me the most about the rise these networks is our society’s infatuation with approval which is manifested through “liking” – and how obsessed my generation has become with this need for instant attention and a feeling of positive peer feedback. This aspect of social media feeds into the human nature of insecurity and desire for acceptance. Even those who appear to be unconcerned with getting a few petty likes on their new profile picture, or no interactions on their latest tweet feel the slightest bit of sting due to that innate need for peer gratification. At the end of the day, we are all one in the same with the desire to be accepted.
Even more interesting than the idea that we crave attention through the means of social media is the idea that we practically put a numerical value on which to base our social standing, we associate each picture, or each status or each post we put on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter through how many “likes” or “favorites” it has. We all know that one person who gets no less than 200 or so likes on their profile picture, or has over a thousand followers on Twitter, and we all feel the shallow sense of envy when we unwillingly compare ourselves to them.
The oh so fragile self-esteem of mankind can been seen through the lifetime of popularity contests we endure from childhood; from the playground, to the workplace, in elections and on TV shows. With the birth of social media almost everything we do it is subject to this virtual rating system. There is a ridiculous trend going on that starts off with “If I get a million likes…” followed by some act of charity, some crazy stunt, etc. Why not do those things without the need for approval from others? It seems as though we allow ourselves to be dictated by the social world around us for even the most simple or meaningless decisions.
At the end of the day when we finally close down our laptops and put away our phones, the time constantly checking social media for “likes” and “favorites” is a remorseful waste of time. The truth is that other people’s opinions will not propel you in life. While we feed into our insecurities we lose track of the importance of self- assurance and the comfort that comes with being our true selves- something that is so fundamentally important if we want truthfully achieve happiness.