A Veritable Heat Death By Social Media
I fucking hate social media. I use it. But I hate it...I can't make it work for me, and I don't know what I want it for.
I remember the days of MySpace - Everybody's best friend Tom was taking the world by storm, we were all blogging, learning the internet, becoming highly proficient tech experts with our extensive use of HTML coding, by copying and pasting crap from 3rd party websites in order to make our profile pages pop with colour and personality. We wanted everybody to know who we were, what we liked, what we were thinking, and what we were listening to by specifically picking that one magic profile song to play when your friends visited your page...Either sending a message to your crush, being avant-garde by choosing something deliberately perceived as weird, or simply plonking your favourite song on there because everyone had to know your music taste.
We were original, we were unique, we had discovered a way to share and explore our opinions in a way we had never experienced before.
But that was 2004...Fast forward 16 years later; fuck everybody, adverts, lies, adverts, fake news, adverts, I don't care about your food, your babies, how long your jog was, first day of school pics for your 4 year old, or what's irritating you...And what the fuck happened to Tom?!
We have successfully curated an extensive list of "friends" we don't really know, of whom we take an active approach of disliking their content...By passive-aggressively hitting the like button...
"Your lunch looks amazing! So jealous! 😮"
Does it fuck, but I want you to remember who I am, check my content, and feel the same way I feel about yours.
Obviously, it's not all bad...At the time of writing, we're currently experiencing lockdown due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. Social media is becoming once more what it used to be, a tool for connection to those we care about, which is working for many. Yet still, the constant rehash of 'share this post if this that or the other', and 'list your favourite 10 albums'...For what? What fun are you obtaining from sharing such content that's asked of you?
You might argue that it's to start a dialogue, open a discussion and create a bit of debate of differing opinions. For the most part, that's not what we want now...We know our opinions, that's why we post what we post, our minds are made up, so in opening that discussion, you're actually seeking approval of that statement through likes and agreeable comments. Then some of us kick off furiously when an opposing rational thought is posted, on the thing you have posted under the guise of opening a discussion and thereby are asking for oppositions to debate with...? It doesn't make sense.
I used to frivolously share my opinions and thoughts on Facebook, if I'd watched a movie I'd share my thoughts on it, in the hopes of starting a conversation, or write something I thought was a funny joke so people would laugh, and think me creative and a good comedian...Later I'd go on to share my music and creative endeavours, and hope that people would listen and enjoy it, and perhaps start a fanbase somehow that starts with friends...But either I just wasn't good enough at what I was doing or I had it all wrong. The answer is both.
The pointless arguments that would start on some of the things I'd shared soon started to become irritating, and ego shattering. Albeit, I was guilty in my youth of starting some, in the base pleasure of riling someone up, to later realise, it's not constructive, and just making other people what I feel. Annoyed, and futile.
Social media today, is about validation. You are not sharing content for anything but the praise of likes and comments. You want to feel good about your accomplishments and activities by letting the world know that you're doing them...Because if you're not telling anybody you're doing it, does it matter?
"If a tree falls in a forest, and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?" 'If I think a thought and don't post it online, is it worth thinking about?'
The internet and the availability of this medium has bred a toxic mindset that for the most part, we are not even consciously aware of.
So the saying goes "I think, therefore I am", but these days, it seems to be more "you think, therefore I am".
If you're not seeking validation, or giving it to others, then you're advertising, or being advertised to.
We have seceded from the age of sharing the content that made us smile, and rather, only share that which we feel genuinely deserves to be shared, and these days, that only ever seems to be content with financial backing...In which case, there is an agenda behind it.
Subliminal messaging was made illegal in 1958, but the passing of that law never foresaw the manner in which it is conducted today. You only need to look at the whole Cambridge Analytica scandal for an extreme version of manipulation.
Every time you scroll that feed, how much are you seeing that is a paid advert, or those "influencers"...
...That you follow, who are being paid to show off a product or service in their content, because marketing companies know you want to be like them, so you can be like them, by buying that particular clothing brand and showing it off on your content to both make your friends jealous, and get attention of that brand...So they can give you free shit too!
I want to share things on my social media, I want to post pictures of things I'm doing...I want to actually use the camera on my phone. I have ideas in my head of youtube videos and things I want to create so I can share it. But what am I doing it for?
A small handful of people will see it, and give it a 👍, but it'll go no further...It won't get shared to wider circles, or the greater depths of the internet, as is the dream for all when sharing such content.
The awareness of how I, and most people internally condescend the stuff people share is how I don't want to be perceived. There will always be that fear, true, when sharing an aspect of creativity and expressing yourself through that medium, but the manner in which social media exists these days has that seeming like more of an unspoken certainty.
Through the visor of a screen, we feel freer to air our complaints, as we are at a distance. We believe ourselves to have the knowledge that if we incur negative feelings or comments through our words and thoughts, that we can shut off from it and it goes away...We won't get punched in the face should we commit such actions face to face, but also, the awareness that you're speaking to an actual human being, who like you, has their own feelings and concerns is removed.
People inherently love a sense of antagonism, if a perceived injustice presents itself whereby our belief in our rights are threatened, we'll feel compelled to pipe up immediately. In the same way business's will receive a plethora of complaints yet rarely ever a compliment. When something is done right, when someone says something that we agree with, it validates our opinion, and that's all we need from it. The service is satisfied, the ego sated. There is no need to verbalise a rebuttal of our approval, because we have received in, and in that moment we won't think outside ourselves to recognise that the other person in that conversation might need that too.
There's a good reason why business's don't use validation as a metric for success, so why should we be using that on our social media?
The 'news feeds' we have built for ourselves have designed for us an arbitrary series of standards by which we compare our lives to. By having a window into how others conduct their social behaviour, we can now formulate our own set of standards. Except these 'standards' are built upon incorrect, or manipulated information, which upon our reception, we seek to emulate in our own way. So as not to feel left out, and now, to one up that 'friend' you never talk to, that you don't really like, that you always felt had it better than you.
I feel it to be very true; the more you post on social media, and the more fulfilled you appear to be through your content, the less fulfilled you actually are. Those lurkers in the background who occasionally look, judge, but never say anything or post anything, tend to exist more in the real world. Their sense of validation and fulfilment comes from elsewhere within their more physical social circle, thereby not needing to seek it online. Potentially not much better, but certainly not as visible.
Yet we end up envious of those unfulfilled people who present themselves as having it all together, damaging our self-esteem and our ego. So we endeavour to take 50'000 duck faced selfies with our gal-pals, or whatever weird facial expression is #trending right now, when we're on our nights out. Or tweeting that band you've spent more time taking video of at the concert than actually watching. You build these memories through a screen, so forget to actually live them, all in an effort to present yourself "better" to those you have chosen to surround yourself with.
We like to consider ourselves individual, unique personalities, unlike any other...Except, we aren't. In our comparisons of others around us, we're actually seeking to be more conformed and in unison, because we're more focussed on our presentations of conceptual social success, rather than living an enriched life, and being part of a bigger group makes us feel more validated in nature, because we've incepted ourselves into the behaviours of others, so we deem it appropriate...Like sheep.
Being unique is hard...We're putting ourselves out there for all the negativity and criticism that we naturally want to avoid, it's so much harder to obtain the validation that we feel will make our actions worthy, and we can tell ourselves that we don't need that feeling, that we don't need the approval of others. So what are you doing it for?
Why are you sharing those pictures if not for people to see them?
Why are you sharing your thoughts if not for people to read them?
Why are you ranting aggressively about your injustice, if not to see who agrees with you?
So here lies the struggle...I want to be me online, I want to create things, and share them. But me is a cumulation of influence and experience, part of which includes the evolution of the internet. My experiences are not unique to only myself, with the quantity of people in existence on the planet, the notion of being truly individual in your experiences and expressions is impossible. In sharing my creations, I am doing so amongst a crowd of other people sharing their creations, in sharing that which I find entertaining or enlightening, I am doing so the same as countless others.
It's a vicious cycle compiled of egomania, self-conscious anxiety, and denial. The issue is not what the internet or social media has become, nor how people have evolved in the use of such. But the refusal to accept that actually, I am just as self-centred as those whom I condescend and judge, for doing the things I want to be doing online.
Don't get me wrong, there is still a lot of crap that people share that I really don't see the point of...But likewise, were I to share as freely as I conceptualise, these people would think the same of me. The problem does not lie in the people that don't care. We concern ourselves so much with those that do not care...That which we do not have. That we forget those that do care. There are people who will genuinely like your stuff, it's just a numbers game that takes time and patience, and that creativity and expression cannot exist without ego.
Art is subjective, so of course we need validation, because we like and admire what we have done (perfectionism aside), especially if we ascribe meaning to what we have created. When we have put our passion and energy into creating something, it's not enough that you've done it for yourself, because you know what it means. Sometimes, the joy lies in people unravelling that puzzle too, or finding their own meanings in that which you've expressed...Because those things we feel, everybody feels them too, in different ways, and yes it is all for validation, confused for a sense of connection, because in this discerning of connection, we are made to feel good about ourselves.
Then we have this whole "post-truth" era that we live in, where a tool as useful for research and fact finding as the internet, is actually assumed to be as such, therefore people take things at face value, under the assumption that the poster has done said research themselves...So why not believe it?
It's like when you use a comparison site for your insurance these days...It's a good idea on paper, but I got a cheaper quote by going direct to a provider - So not only did a use 3 comparison sites, I ended up on 6 different direct websites too...The theory is, that I should use one comparison site, and get what I need, and a lot of people will accept that as the cheapest on offer and go for it. Now I'm having to do all this extra leg work researching around all of that too, to see if the comparison site is telling the truth?
Just like the 'news' we see on our social feeds, we should be researching...But now reputable news sources are in question, and things just get more complicated, and more confusing, which of course leads to so many differences of opinions, because different people are researching differently, accessing different content, and being presented with different, sometimes conflicting, information. With that understanding, is it really worth getting into an argument about something, when you'll only ever be looking up information in support of your opinion anyway...Maybe we need some high school debate team rules for when things get toxic online. Have a bit of diplomacy, for fuck sake.
Art - Share it. So many people won't care, so many people won't like it, so many people won't share it. But build up enough quantity, by the logic of numbers, you'll reach someone eventually, and you could make all the difference to someone in so many different ways you may not even consider.
Opinions - Be free with them, they're a cumulation of your experiences, education, and the media you're exposed to. You're always going to be wrong, but to those that matter, you're right. Always default to agreeing to disagree, because your opinion exists, because you've made up your mind already, no amount of antagonistic debate is going to change that.
Accept it. You want validation, you want to feel good about yourself, and what's wrong with that? As long as you have the understanding of what it is you're seeking and can recognise when it becomes unhealthy, then you'll be fine.
Those who sing on Instagram for example, on those innocuous 'private' accounts and don't show your faces...Make that shit public, show your face, sing your heart out. You obviously want someone to see it, so let them see it. By hiding it, and restricting accessibility, you're doing yourself no favours, you're working against yourself and setting yourself up for failure when you check to see you have no new follow requests, less likes than you want, and nothing but negative comments if any...Or perhaps only positive comments from those close to you, which because they're close, you assume nepotism, and therefore receive little value.
Those who show off their body, you all know you want to be told you're beautiful and want to be idolised, because you don't do it for yourself. Well before filling your social media with those pictures, you need to heart react that shit in the mirror first, because if you don't love yourself and have pride in your own appearance, then the sharing of that content and the seeking for validation is never ending and serves only to perpetuate more negative energy, as you'll only use that as a comparison to others who you aspire to be like. Don't aspire to be anything but yourself.
I need to accept the fact that I do want validation, and that's OK to a certain extent, but I hold onto this belief somewhere, that the approval of others will provide me with inspiration, because then I am no longer doing things for myself, and personally, I've always been so much better at doing things for other people than for myself. So a lot of my recent struggles with my musicality are that I don't know what I'm doing it for.
On reflection, I guess all my songs were for either a dream of making a career of it somehow, or perhaps sending a message to someone by writing about a particular experience, expressing how I felt hoping people might understand the things I was thinking and feeling. In setting the desire for specific things, of course I was never going to receive them, were my motivations wrong?
So now I am trying to understand what music means to me, what do I want to do it for, and rediscover a much more personalised motivation for it before sharing it.
Perhaps I am trying to seek a means for doing creative things without the need for validation, but perhaps such a concept simply does not exist. Perhaps you cannot have one without the other, in that the creativity, the expressionism, the motivations and the inspirations are all connected; where narcissism plays an integral part.
Maybe it's an overthink, and like everybody says I just need to fucking do the thing I want to do. That I'm making myself so hyperaware of the need for approval, and because I don't like that concept, and want to believe myself to not be like that, that I'm then holding myself back.
We all need a little Freddie Mercury...He knew what he wanted. Like many who perform on stage, they need to be seen, and you cannot do that without the ego. Accepting this, gives more confidence to the things you do, and everybody responds best to those who display confidence, even if sometimes we're threatened by it.
I fucking hate social media. I use it. But I hate it...I can't make it work for me because I know what I want it for, but what I want it for doesn't exist. It does not exist or operate, without the desire for validation. We are all looking for ways to feel good about ourselves and give our lives meaning...If posting that Strava screenshot of your run motivates you to run more and be healthy, well, that can't be a bad thing.