We are all actors performing the chapters of our lives. Some of us engage in this drama eagerly, sharing a great deal of what occurs on our social media, and freely discussing even the most intimate details with anyone within earshot. While appropriate self disclosure can be quite beneficial, it becomes problematic when all this exposure is an attempt for others’ approval. There’s all the world of difference from being the star of your own show and letting others’ approval become an addiction.
Social media is part of life for many of us. Statistics show that many of us check Facebook before we climb out of bed in the morning, beginning a trend for multiple check-ins during each day. Increased social media usage is associated with greater distress for some of us, especially those who were already at risk for anxiety, depression and other forms of distress. Social media can become a true addiction. On the other hand, social media is an amazing way to connect with like-minded individuals, which is especially important for those of us who don’t have such people nearby.
The dangers of social media was a popular topic in the advanced psychology seminars that I taught. After we discussed the research, students would share their opinions and experiences. What fascinated me about these informal sessions is how we were playing the dual roles of being the observer and actor regarding social media. My burgeoning social scientists were full of hypotheses and theories. The cleverer ones also provided insight on their own social media use. I knew that these were the students who could go onto successful careers because they demonstrated the very useful skill of being able to apply research to their own experiences. Another healthy ability that some of them had was that they didn’t look to their social media for approval, instead seeing it as a way to interact with others.
External Validation Shouldn’t Be a Substitute for Our Own Truth
Research demonstrates that seeking external validation via our social media posts or our IRL interactions can be incredibly problematic, damaging our views about ourselves, leading to distress and interfering with our ability to have nourishing relationships. Many of us are solitary practices, lacking in-person affiliations with like-minded others whether by choice or necessity. I recently wrote about the benefits of kinship in Don’t Call Me Sister: The Double Trouble Of Assumed Familiarity And Believing Only Women Can Be Witches. Finding groups that are supportive, enjoyable, informative and safe is a great blessing of social media for isolated practitioners. However, we can become dependent on these groups if we aren’t careful, using them for validation instead of focusing on our own strengths. In Are You A Firewalking Truth Weaver Or Are You Desperately Seeking Magic?, I talked about how we can – rightfully so – become so desperate for a solution to our problems, that we recklessly seek answers. Part of this desperation is about receiving external validation, which, of course, is not inherently troublesome, but it can become so when we substitute it for following our own inner voice.
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