Sunday, 10 April 2016

The Value Of A Like

mac tiger phone 1

So I'm about to publish a new post on Instagram, a tasteful black and white selfie. My finger dances over the 'share' button before I send it out into the world. Loading it up with hashtags (sneakily added into the comments) I admire my work and expect the likes to come rolling in.

Thirty minutes later I check again. 5 likes. I'm embarrassed, mortified, confused, I'm...on a photo sharing app having a breakdown? Nonetheless thoughts rush through my head, should I have actually hash tagged 'selfie' instead of leaving it out because I thought it was lame? What was wrong with me? Why did this seem easier for everyone else? My selfie just makes it to 11 likes (you know, where it just becomes a number and not a list of people's names).

Because I write a blog and am actively interested in social media, I often fall victim to the traps of social media validation. People can tell me 'social media isn't real' until the cows come home but the fact is that it has become a part of our reality. It is an immediate and effective way to validate things that you say or do, to encourage engagement. It's a great way to cultivate and show off the parts of you that you love, which should be celebrated, yet I also feel that it has its downsides.

Last week I found myself getting deeply frustrated about Twitter. Yes, the social media channel where even its actual freaking name denotes its rather lighthearted, often inane nature. If I posted something and it recieved no likes, I would immediately doubt myself. Every time I lost a follower I would take it completely personally. I would look at other people's twitters and their higher number counts would take on a life of their own, leering at me and confirming my ineptitude. It all begs the question, when did this stop being fun? Why is any of this important? Why am I desperately seeking the approval of a sea of people I don't even know? It's interesting to talk to people from the generation before and see their bewilderment at the importance of social media popularity, 'why does it matter?' they'll say.

It matters because that's how I, and many people, perceive success these days. With great power comes great responsibility. Also, free stuff and random people coming up to you in the street telling you that they recognised you from Instagram whilst you're halfway through eating a sandwich. This is what we strive for, and with every like and comment we feel a little better about ourselves. We get to milestones, maybe 500 blog followers or 100 likes on instagram, which we briefly celebrate, but it always leaves you wanting more. I really am a drop in the ocean when it comes to cultivating a successful online presence, but sometimes I find myself looking at my friends in envy, those who just use instagram because it's a fun place to share stupid photos of your mates, who don't really give a shit and are able to find satisfaction in other parts of their life.

Social media has given us an amazing outlet to share our creative work to a much larger audience than we could have ever thought possible, and I am truly grateful for that. Yet with that comes an expectation of immediate validation and a very concrete measure of our success. I used to write blogs just for me, because it was fun, and it makes me wonder whether we can ever truly find satisfaction and worth in our work as separate from this culture of liking, commenting and sharing. Part of me always feels frustrated that I'm not progressing, and how that progression is often reflected in a number. A niggling worry in me also knows that even those who break through and are successful aren't necessarily happy, or at least not for that reason alone.

The other day I genuinely considered doing an Essena O'Neill. Giving it all up, deactivating Twitter, packing up my stuff in a hanky on a string and living in a cave as a hermit. The pressures that I put upon myself whilst using social media, and the way I correlated likes with my own self esteem, just seemed exhausting and unhealthy. I don't think I will actually do that, but it seems important to remember what a 'like' actually is, really nothing more than a brief nod, something that holds very little significance in and of itself (unless someone you have a crush on likes your selfie in which case, wahey)! The internet should be used for cat videos and not for a damning analysis of our own self worth. I know this, deep down, but it's hard to remember in a society where social media is so prevalent.

Sometimes the appeal of becoming anonymous, of making stuff for me, however insignificant, really speaks to me. To say 'fuck you' to Facebook likes, analytics, algorithms and forecasts. We have such an incredible resource available to us but it seems important to not let its influence overpower us and make us lose perspective of what's important. Occasionally someone who has read a blog post of mine reaches out to me, or just tells me that something I wore inspired them to try something different,and that small voice amongst a sea of social 'likes' feels so significant. I suppose that's a good reason to do it, to make those small connections with people that you might otherwise have never spoken to.

I wonder whether, with my own personal use of social media, I'm assigning value in the wrong places. In the midst of comparison and growing numbers I'm forgetting what brought me here in the first place, to have an outlet for creativity and a place to make friends. Having any kind of audience whatsoever feels like a huge privilege, but I hope that the pressure of growing on social media won't discourage me from achieving my own creative goals.

I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts. Do you agree that social media validation can be pressurising or do you just use it for fun? What does it mean for you when something you post gets liked?

Twitter/Instagram/Bloglovin

13 comments :

  1. This is such a brilliant post.
    I feel exactly the same - especially on instagram. I think you can get so caught up in loving something you're about to post and feel so proud/pleased with it then if the comments and likes don't come, you're obviously useless and done something wrong! I think social media is absolutely fantastic, but it does given me heightened anxiety. I think your post perfectly sums things up.
    What a lovely, different post ~

    Love, Amyleigh xo | northern-blood.blogspot.com

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  2. Wonderful post and something I have thought about. One of the many reasons I left Facebook actually is because I got frustrated with people's obsession on numbers, like and comments. I care a lot less now days about my numbers, maybe the opposite to yourself, I don't perceive success as the number of followers you have but I have before. Then I started meeting successful people, people who have everything they need in life, people who are doing a job they love, surrounded by the people they love and do you know what, I looked at their social media accounts...nothing amazing. No big follower counts, no huge amount of likes.

    My conclusion was it really didn't matter. Yes you may get some extra stuff for your blog because you have a higher number of followers or as you say you may get recognised on the street eating a sandwich (i've been there, it's just embarrassing, i'm far too awkward for an sort of mini fame) but the reality is, it's your everyday life that you live off screen that brings happiness. Something i'm learning more and more.

    Thanks so much for writing this post, it was really lovely food for thought. x

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  3. Lovely outfit, loved it!

    Check out my blog? wildvagabondss.blogspot.com
    Love, Jess xx

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  4. Don't worry about it. No-one ever likes anything I post & I'm awesome:)

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  5. Thanks for this post! I think we, bloggers, all need to reflect sometimes on our uses of social platforms and how they make us feel. If one is feeling down or stressed about posting a photo or a tweet, it means that maybe it is not the right thing to do and taking distances can be a good experiment to try! Luckily (well, depends on the point of view - my blog stats don't thank me for that) I'm not into social media; I've tried Twitter and I don't even know how to use it haha, I dislike Facebook and I think Snapchat is a bit useless. The only account I love posting on is Instagram, because of the photography aspect it still retains.
    You've given a lot of thought to the whole thing, and you are right, social media is important nowadays, whether we want it or not - but sometimes, taking a step back like that is necessary! :)

    Julia x
    www.juliaspeaksbeauty.blospot.fr

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  6. I know what you mean, the depths of social media are endless.
    xx Falasha
    Bite My Fashion ll Instagram ll Bloglovin'

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  7. I get you, I feel like that often as well and can have a nervous breakdown for a whole day, until I tell myself it is not the end of the world. Just don't let others define your worth, define it yourself! :)

    http://byliil.wordpress.com

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  8. I go through stages with my social media caring. Sometimes I care a whole bunch about the attention (or lack thereof) my online presence receives, and other times I don't care. On the topic of instagram, I find it to be a fickle creature. I just can't work it out, but I still use it.

    http://theemeraldruby.com

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Thank you so so much for your comment! It makes me smile everytime I see a new one pop up. If you leave me a link to your blog I will aim to get back to you within 2 days because I love looking at all your blogs too!
If you want to continue the conversation, tweet me @thebelphoebejar

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