Social media has many addictive qualities. The primary one: Social media is an excellent vehicle for trying to impress people through imagery projection. Admittedly impressing someone is often the key to being accepted, getting a date, being welcomed into a group, landing a job, or being respected.
We gravitate to those who impress us, which is why we try to impress people – in the hope they’ll gravitate to us. To impress people, we often change ourselves to make others like us or carefully select what we share to not go against the image we’re trying to portray.
Here’s how social media stickiness works. You get up in the morning, and like a Pavlovian dog, reach for your smartphone and start scrolling through your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.
Your feeds are populated with posts by people you’ve chosen to be connected to – posts and images of how happy and successful everyone is. Since you never have real-life interaction with your “social media friends,” these people are the equivalent of cartoon cut outs of happiness. You only see vacations, weddings, promotions, fancy dinners, etc., without knowing the person’s background story. In the back of your mind, you know most of the postings you see are performative, with an agenda of trying to impress, yet these postings trigger self-comparison.
Living in a first-world country, you have more than most of the world’s population. Odds are you have a roof over your head, food in the fridge, your health is good, you’re employed, have family and friends. However, your social media feed makes you unhappy. Compared to your digital friend’s (strangers) posts, you’re not doing as many fun activities, vacationing in foreign countries, eating in fine dining establishments, shopping, or being professionally successful; thus, you want more.
Wanting more is the cause of most of your problems and angst. The constant attempt to make yourself happy motivates you to do things you can document with the intent (your agenda) of impressing others.
The ‘like’ button is the biggest Svengali-like mind wrecker invented since the television. The ‘like’ button feeds our need for recognition. It gives strangers the ability to vote on our life.
There’s this expression, “Do it for the Gram!” The phrase is a colloquial phrase that Instagram users say to encourage someone to take a picture of them doing something unique and posting it on Instagram. “Do it for the Gram!” isn’t a profound, meaningful act of seizing the moment of capturing the perfect picture; it’s the modern-day version of keeping up with the Joneses.
There’s a reason why your friends and family have stuck around: you already impress them! Your family and friends accept you for who you are, not the amount of ‘likes’ you receive or your Facebook-worthy achievements.
I don’t tend to take much of my life guidance from Hollywood; however, there’s a line in the 1985 film The Breakfast Club that’s stuck with me: “You ought to spend a little more time trying to make something of yourself and a little less time trying to impress people.” (Richard Vernon to John Bender) Though said in anger, Vernon gives Bender sage life advice. Imagine what you can achieve by focusing the energy you’re using attempting to impress others via social media to impress the only person worth impressing, yourself.
Nick Kossovan, a seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape in Canada, offers advice on searching for a job. Send him your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.