Just before you click ‘status update’, take a moment. How much do you want to be ‘liked’? You can mould your profile to convey happiness and gain popularity, but what about the real goal – actually being happy?

 

Recently I came across a clip “What’s on your mind?” where the Scott Thomson character demonstrated the sad reality of social networking sharing. As the clip, created by video artists the Higton Bros reminds us, Facebook is filled with ‘fake’, or maybe just not very accurate, self-disclosures among friends.

Research suggests that Facebook interaction is a double-edged sword. On one side, individuals who receive positive feedback from online friends feel proud, but on the other side being ignored in an online world can lead to rumination and evoke negative emotions.

Anecdotally, many people say that they feel overwhelmed by a sea of happy status updates from friends, their bright moments of achievements, delicious dinners, work promotions, bouncing babies and cute cat videos.

 

How fabulous is their life!

You may not have been aware that your own life was not so great until you started comparing it with online friends who are in fabulous relationships and have legions of close Facebook friends who just love to like their updates: “Yay, I am such a spoilt girl today, thanks to my fabulous hubby for?” If you have not felt depressed about your life before, just join Facebook and start comparing your life to those of your happier and more successful friends online.

Suddenly, you might learn that your life is boring and nothing spectacular happens, or your occasional pleasant outings still can’t compete with monthly mini-breaks. You might eat the same food for lunch, go to a more or less enjoyable job, and have an okay boyfriend. From being mildly content, you might suddenly feel that you cannot have a post about your vegemite sandwich as it will not get many likes.

The moment when no one really likes or shares our posting can feel very lonely. Ironically, we join Facebook to feel connected but it can isolate us at the same time.

According to one study, when we don’t get many ‘likes’ it ?threatens the needs for belonging, self-esteem, control and meaningful existence?. How can we give so much of ourselves yet be at the mercy of friends in cyberspace? Do we really expect other people to like our every update, or photos of our funny cat or gourmet burger?

 

Can Facebook enrich the lives of people who struggle socially?

Many people struggle to make interpersonal connections. Can Facebook make a positive contribution to their social lives?

While Facebook is a safe medium through which you can share information about your life, people who have low self-esteem and already struggle making connections with people in real life, might not reap the benefits of self-disclosure online. This is because they have high levels of negativity in their posts, such as “My life sucks”, and not a lot of positive posts: “Yay, I’m off skiing with my hunny bunny”

 

Play the game – Buy a cat.

It appears that people comment on and like positive and happy posts from their Facebook friends rather than anything negative. For example, when Kate describes her trip to New York she is more likely to get lots of likes and comments than Melanie, who complains about her dead-end job.

So if you want to reap the benefits of your Facebook friends engaging with you, aim to post yummy food photos, happiness quotes and funny videos of waving bears.

Furthermore, do not put yourself in the vulnerable position of feeling good about yourself if you only get 30 likes on your status update. Don?t do it to yourself. Do not update your status just to get likes. But if you do, make sure that your posts make people feel warm and fuzzy instead.

 

Just before you click “status update”, consider the real world

One of the most recent studies conducted demonstrated that feeling neglected by internet friends can impact negatively on your self-esteem and feelings of belonging. Your control over social environments and meaningful existence decreases. Apparently, the threat of being neglected online is so powerful that it might not disappear, even if you already have good connections with your friends. Additionally, receiving fewer responses is even more detrimental than receiving fewer positive comments.

It is incredible that our online lives can have such a great impact on our psychological and emotional wellbeing. What can you do about it?

  • When you feel low

If you feel low or have a bad day, try to connect with people offline first. Reach out to a close friend or just take time off to look after yourself.

  • I am okay regardless of the number of likes I get

Remind yourself that when you post something, people might not like it but that is okay. Your self-worth is not based on the number of likes you get from your online friends.

  • Don’t post when emotions are high – or when drunk

Do not post when you are experiencing emotional turmoil, are in the middle of an argument, or have just lost your job, and especially not when you are under the influence of alcohol or any other substance. While you might experience shock, disappointment and strong heartache momentarily, give yourself time to process these feeling before you share them with one billion Facebook users.Wait until you have sobriety and perspective before updating your status.

  • Meaningful engagement in real life

If you want to feel good about yourself do something about it offline. Work on your self-worth or self-esteem with a Psychologist.  Alternatively, you can get therapeutic assistance to address difficulties in your current relationships and to help you to build new ones. Find a meaningful engagement, set up a challenge for yourself in real life (prepare to run a marathon, volunteer for a homeless shelter or learn how to make sushi). Do this for yourself, and enjoy it. Enjoy its ups and downs and don?t let other online friends determine how good your project is by liking it or ignoring it.

  • Focus on relationships that matter

Work on relationships with people who matter to you offline and maintain relationships with people you like online. You will get more satisfaction working on your relationship with your wife and children, or your parents or friends, in the real world, which definitely matters more than the online world.

 

Posted July 10, 2014 by Yuliya Richard.

Image: Flickr.com
License: Creative Commons Copyright
All rights reserved by Denis Dervisevic