*a 3 minute read*
The great thing about Social Media platforms like Instagram, Twitter & Snapchat (Yes, people still use that,) is that users have complete autonomy over what they publish. You can choose to actively post stories, tweets and pictures on a regular basis, or you can take a more passive approach where you consume content published by friends and mutuals. And although there’s no pressure per se, to post, there is a certain compulsion to post certain types of content. Content that paints you as a well versed, confident and successful individual. Or a fashionable, culinary connoisseur with an insatiable taste for culture and window seat jpegs. Whatever the case may be, the common theme is that these platforms not only allow, but encourage users to create the illusion of perfection and the notion that we have everything figured out.
With the picture-perfect posts comes a form of validation (or invalidation) from friends and followers. They reaffirm us and make us feel better about ourselves. But in the background, there’s a kind of ongoing game, with unsuspecting players. All of a sudden there’s a need to compete with others to ‘get one over’ our peers. To have a particular aesthetic and portray certain lifestyles that are grander than our own realities. Because we care so much, we manage our perception through the videos we share and the pictures we put into the public domain.
Feeling the need to out-do strangers on the internet is just as strange as it sounds. You used to be content with the Popeyes Thursday special but all of a sudden, you’re at STK mispronouncing “tartare” and having Covid-like symptoms when the bill comes. For likes and attention. It’s not compulsory to participate in every Yeezy 350 raffle. How many pairs of shoes do you really need? Your metropass balance is -$2.50 but I guess you can walk to work. Don’t drown in debt just to drip for clout.
Companies like Facebook hire ‘Attention Engineers’ whose function is to exploit our vulnerability to social approval. Users become sensitive to the way people see them and inadvertently search for feedback from acquaintances and strangers online. That’s why you check your phone every 3 minutes after posting a picture with the caption “mood”, or whatever hashtag challenge you’ve been coaxed into this week. People are great at posting about the good things going on in their life. They’re experts at giving you the highlights that are the polar opposites to their mundane comings and goings. To the point that their online personas make them almost unrecognizable in the real world.
We’re a lot happier and better looking online. The problem gets worse when we use other people’s posts as a benchmark or a criterion for happiness, success and all the other things we value, is that it creates a disharmonious atmosphere where users feel the need to keep up and be better than others.
Social media shouldn’t be a competition. It’s not something you win. If there are prizes, they’re either short term dopamine rushes or nothing beyond the materialistic. The function of social media is to provide an interactive platform that allows you to create and share content through virtual communities and networks. And to sell you stuff.
As apps continue to grow, the control you have over them may seem to fade away and push you towards what everyone else is doing. But the authenticity of the user is what makes your social experience whatever you want it to be.
Written by Daniel Okunola
Originally published at https://medium.com/@daniel_okunola6/social-media-one-upmanship-3a5c8b314230