Whether we want to or not, many of us pride ourselves on the level of approval we receive on social media. It makes us feel popular and included. I’ll admit it. I’m hoping this article will receive at least five likes when I share it on Facebook.
After a recent discussion with a friend, and as it seems to be a hot topic to our generation lately, I began thinking about how social media affects our self-perception and influences our relationships with our peers. Unfortunately, I don’t have the means, or time, to answer these questions. However, as generations Y and Z spearhead this unprecedented phenomenon of social media, we need to take a few things into consideration.
How is social media affecting our self-confidence?
Like I mentioned before, I anxiously await the moment a link or picture I post finally gets at least one like. Otherwise, it just sits there, awkwardly, anticipating acknowledgement or approval from another person. I didn’t actually accomplish anything, or do anything productive, but my self-esteem receives a little boost. Come on, you know you feel good once your Instagram hits a solid 11 likes. As much as it is drilled into our heads that self-confidence should come from the inside, our maturity level and our academic brains often get confused with the presence (or lack thereof) of likes, favorites, follows, and friend requests.
Every now and then, yet way more often than we should, we hear stories about teenagers harming themselves or someone else due to interactions on social media. Many of these tragic occurrences deal with confidence issues juxtaposed with cyber-bullying. The Internet provides a channel for bullying to travel from the halls of high school into the supposedly safe environment of home. As I was once a victim of cyber-bullying, I know exactly how it feels to see your name next to an offending phrase. Seeing it in words, as opposed to just hearing it, make things sting a lot more. I still remember how I felt as a high school senior, seeing the Facebook status, “Lydia Mansel is a stupid, stuttering b***h.”
Adolescence and growing up are hard enough without the pressures and stress a media presence can bring. As we download apps like Tinder and Lulu, we need to take into consideration their ability to influence our self-confidence. As easy as it is to feel good about yourself when someone “matches” with you on Tinder, it is just as easy to feel bad when someone gives you a bad ranking on Lulu.
Are we maintaining communication with people who don’t positively add to our lives?
Facebook and the Internet in general are invaluable forms of communication, especially with those you don’t live with on a daily basis. However, we need to give thought to the people we are in contact with, and how they are affecting our thoughts and actions. Hypocritically, I am “friends” with certain people on Facebook who I will probably never see again. Some of them live thousands of miles away, others are from my hometown and I haven’t seen them since high school graduation. Either way, being “Facebook friends” with someone is such a social norm now, that “de-friending” someone is seen as an extreme measure of ending contact with them. If you make the effort to delete them, then you’re saying that you do not care what they are doing whatsoever and would rather not have them come up on your newsfeed. Harsh.
But, in the long run, does it really matter if these people notice that you are no longer Facebook friends or that you decided to unfollow them on Twitter? “Quality versus quantity,” comes to mind as I think about this. Would I rather have 500 Facebook friends that I genuinely know, and communicate with? Or over 1,000 friends, with half of them solely there because I’m too lazy to delete them?
Oppositely, who cares? So what if I only talk to ten percent of my Facebook friends? As long as it doesn’t affect my day-to-day activities, it shouldn’t matter how many people I do or don’t communicate with online. The number of Twitter followers or Facebook friends is meaningless.
Are we doing things for the experience, or for the picture?
Our generation has coined the phrase: “If you didn’t Instagram it, you didn’t eat it.” We laugh about it, as we Instagram that picture-perfect dessert (guilty). Do you find yourself posting a picture or tweeting something in hopes a certain someone will see it? (once again, guilty) Maybe an ex will see that picture of you having a blast at a super fun club and remember that you’re fun, popular, and pretty? We need to remember that what truly makes an experience worthwhile is not the picture. It is the time spent, how we felt, and what we learned from it. Taking a picture of that crème brulee didn’t make it taste any better.
Our generation of twenty-somethings is the leader of the social media phenomenon. We are the ones experiencing the social and cultural effects of these means of communication. It is not up to our elders to save our generation. It is up to us. We need to step back, take a look at the ways in which we are living virtually, and fix what could be potentially destructive to the quality of our lives.