Today’s generation is obsessed with social media––Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and the like are nearly always apparent on our multiple devices. Addicted, we spend hours upon hours poring over glaring screens for those sought for likes and comments, hoping people notice our new selfie, new trophy, or aweing vacation spot. But how do these applications really affect our lifestyles and our mental health?
We dedicate a significant chunk of our time and effort to messaging others for recognition on our posts. It’s clear that we like social validation, as the typical human beings we are. And when we get the likes and comments we want, we feel good about it. When posts don’t do as well as expected though, it almost tugs at us. And yet, we don’t post for anything other than social recognition. It’s not like we upload pictures to our pages for our personal records, the likes and comments just a side effect. We show the world our pictures for the sole purpose of, well, showing the world.
What do we hope to gain from this exposure? Is it validation that we are respected or admired? Or are our posts just a friendly reminder of our existence and willingness to interact with others? Or are they to instill jealousy or thirst? It’s probably a mixture of all of them, but the idea is, we’re looking for a positive reaction in others, or at least to create a positive perception of us. This can be unhealthy, as it is almost impossible to be perfectly likeable, and thus is also extremely difficult to always gain a positive response. The cliche tells us not to care much about other people’s opinions, and to stick to self-improvement and reflection. Of course, this is ideal in the short term. For those who may not fit society’s ideal stereotype, it can be painful and undeserving to see negative online comments when it’s something one can’t control or really fix. Therefore, it is better for one’s mental health to stay away from seeking validation when all that comes is hate.
With that said, is it for the best to forget everyone else’s opinion? Not necessarily. Again, although it might be beneficial in the short term, it is inevitably necessary to integrate oneself into society. A constant focus on oneself isn’t possible in society––jobs, education, work, they all require interaction, social acceptance, and interpersonal validation. It’s impossible to keep to oneself for one’s entire life and hope to be successful. Success in the human world is inseparable with human interaction.
At this point, it seems impossible to avoid the negative consequences coming with either succumbing to the nature of us social creatures, or neglecting others completely and be unable to achieve success. However, the solution comes in carefully crafting one’s interactions. Though it is impossible to avoid all negativity, it’s possible to pick and choose who you interact with. By selecting those that are supportive and bring positive vibes, one can surround oneself with those that can block out the negativity and yet still provide the same social validation all humans seek. The same goes with social media.