This morning I made the mistake of logging into facebook. If you talk to me on the regular, you know that I have paused using social media for a spell. I mostly use instagram, but after posting something very personal and the lack of response from my “friends” I decided that social media is for the superficial (and not much for me).
In a world of selfies and narcissism, it is easy to think you deserve attention and praise. You will want to hear this, but you do not deserve a bunch of attention just because you want it. What people do not realise is that while they are posting their lives on Facebook, there is a psychological burden that their audience may face. Fact is, they probably do not care and neither should you. Their success is not your failure. Their success is their success and your success is your success. Please understand that getting a bunch of likes on Facebook or Instagram does not constitute happiness. Sure you will be pretty cheery about it for a while, but then you will crave more likes and more attention once that has worn off. The cycle never ends. (I try to) Focus instead on being successful in your own way as opposed to the way that will get likes.
It is a single still photograph of a single moment. In the background a lot of darker things are probably going on in their lives. Everyone is struggling with something, but their way of coping with it may be different from yours.
When I use social media daily, my depression is constant. I do not think that, “I am consumed with existential dread” makes for a good status update. And faking cheerfulness feels even more painful. I do not crave the validation like some do. I tend to prefer my interactions to be one-on-one and without a camera documenting my every angle. I understand that we are all different, neither of these is more right than the other. It is just a matter of what makes you happy.
I get into trouble when I take my eyes off my own path and look over at someone else’s. I immediately get sucked into comparing and despairing, and lose all sense of groundedness, of being anchored to my life. If I want to have any sense of self-esteem, I have to pull my gaze off the social media streams and place it firmly back on my life.
We have all shifted from being observers to being reporters. When something cool is happening we are not looking at or listening to it, we are tweeting about it or taking pictures of it for our Facebook or texting people who are not there. This is like a blah blah participatory shared whatever but it also means that we operate in a perpetual state of divided attention.
The addicting + reinforcing behaviour is nauseating. Random notifications and the endless flow of information on our feeds stimulate the production of two main chemical rewards – dopamine and oxytocin. When we post, comment, like, or share, and receive the same in return, our oxytocin levels rise and we feel more connected, included, and happy. The stimulation of social media not only makes us feel good but leaves us wanting more.