Confession: I’m an Insta-addict.
Why? Because getting affirmation from strangers makes me feel good – it sounds awful, doesn’t it? Posting pictures in the hope of them (a.k.a. me) being liked.
But I guess seeking validation is nothing new. Maybe it springs from childhood. As a kid, I always remember wanting to make my parents happy. I remember wanting them to tell me I was doing a good job. My heart would swell with pride after they praised my positive school reports, and it would sink in disappointment when they couldn’t attend any plays I performed in. I even see it now amongst younger relatives; my cousins need congratulating on every picture they draw, every word they can spell, every Lego city they can build.
It makes me think how odd it is that a two year old and I can share such a similar desire. What is the point of success if the people I care about don’t care about it?
The only change is that the validation we crave isn’t just from peers or from family. It comes from a public profile with strangers we invite into our worlds consisting of documentation of that wistfully candid pose looking out onto a blue ocean, and that ‘fitspirational’ slice of avocado on toast you once ate six months ago.
It’s the feedback we receive that thrills us. We are ‘goals’. We are deemed ‘follow-able’ because the content we post is interesting enough for someone to tap twice and forget about as quickly as they scrolled through and viewed it.
So I want to suggest that we tear our eyes away from the screen and look up at the person sitting across from us. Yes, that’s right; a real-life human. Because it’s the real-life relationships we form which should give us true joy. We shun the people who really are in our lives for approval from people who know nothing about you; except that you went to New York last Christmas and that your “#cheatday” go-to is an Oatmeal and Raisin Millie’s Cookie. It’s the people who really exist in our lives that deserve all our effort because, in cloudier times, it won’t be a like on social media which will pull you through. It will be support from the existing, real-life people around us which will brighten our days.
So next time I post a photo, I’ll be sure to match it with an actual human conversation with someone I love. They’re the ones who matter, not the likes I receive.