Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Click Like if You Like Me

Conversations with several friends and in my classes over the past few months have me rethinking Facebook and other forms of social media.

I think we all know intellectually that social media is changing communication norms, but even so, it’s not the same as face-to-face communication and real relationship. We all know that if we don’t use social media very carefully, it can play an inappropriate role in our lives. We all know it can make relationships appear deeper when they actually are shallow.

But do we really know? Or do we know just enough to acknowledge it verbally before jumping back into the fray?

I am preparing to become a school counselor, and in my classes we’ve talked about the effects of social media on teens. Their tendency to determine their self-worth based on their perception of their friends’ opinions plays out on Facebook as well: If you like or comment on my posts, you care about me. If you don’t like or comment on my posts, you don’t care about me.

But come on. Let’s be honest. That’s not just something teenagers do. I’ve seen plenty of it in adults, myself included. Do we really think that we can measure people’s love for us by their likes and comments on Facebook? Intellectually, no, most people don’t believe that. Realistically, um, yeah– we believe it!

We post and then watch for the notifications to come in. As the likes and comments start piling up, we feel better about ourselves. They like me, they really like me! And if we don’t get as much Facebook recognition as we’d like, we start to feel small, insignificant. Doesn’t anyone care? What did I do wrong? Am I not interesting enough, clever enough, insightful enough? Am I so unimportant that people couldn’t even take the time to click like?

Don’t they know that it’s more than just clicking the mouse? It’s affirmation of my worth!

We carefully concoct posts that are humorous or insightful, then sit back and watch the affirmation come in. We construct false lives in hopes that people will like us more. We post our struggles and hope someone will affirm that we are loved. We add people to our friend list and feel as though we are actually adding real relationships to our lives.

It’s a farce. A ridiculous farce. And it’s dangerous to the concept of real relationship. Instead of reaching out to people face-to-face, we post to large numbers of people on Facebook. We look for encouragement and support in the form of likes and comments. We trade in our authentic, messy selves and authentic, messy relationships for our online image and shallow affirmation.

Obviously social media can be used in a way that enhances real relationships, if approached very intentionally. But how many of us actually use it that way?

Everyone reading this post is probably thinking it’s about them. Well, duh. Of course it is. It’s about all of us. And I am tired of polishing up my image and making myself look a certain way just to get false affirmation online. I am tired of measuring my self-worth based on how many likes and comments I get.

Now more than ever, I just want to get together with my friends face-to-face, one-on-one or in small groups, and share in authentic relationships.

If you’re with me, don’t just post a comment or click “like.” Step away from the computer, put down the smart phone, and make an effort to reach out to people one-on-one in your life. It’s worth it.