Social Nets Blatantly Stoking The Fires Of Insecurity

This week, an all-too-close-to-the-bone video from Higton Brothers is making the rounds on my Newsfeed, ironically using Facebook to spread the message that Facebook isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In it, the protagonist’s life spirals completely out of control while his social media posts depict only awesomeness.

It’s certainly not news that sites like Facebook make us feel bad about ourselves. From the BBC to Time magazine, from commentary to rigorous research, we’ve been hearing users complain about social media-provoked low self esteem for some time.

Read these studies and editorials, and you’ll learn about things like the availability heuristic, correspondence bias, and affective wellbeing. But it’s a less-scientific term I learned from the links that interests me more: “Compare and Despair.”

From Psychology Today: “[M]y most favorite game in the whole wide world is Compare and Despair, and social media provides a never-ending stream of opportunities to play this game. Some days I'd wake up and go online to see Facebook status updates like, ‘Just filmed a segment on The Today Show’ or ‘My book hit the New York Times Bestseller list,’ or ‘I was quoted in The Wall Street Journal--check it out!’ when all I'd done so far that day was brush my teeth and have a cup of coffee. Even if I start out feeling moderately OK about myself, by the time I get off Facebook I feel like I haven't done anything with my life because I'm not ‘about to send my manuscript to my agent!’ or ‘having the best day EVER and sooo grateful for all my many blessings!’”

We’ve all done it, right? Secretly suspected that everyone else was having a better time than you, that they were doing life right while you were stumbling along just trying to figure it out. And we’ve been doing it since ages ago, long before The Facebook was a gleam in Mark Zuckerberg’s eye. It’s not entirely fair to shift the blame for our human frailties from our own shoulders to those of social media.

But it is fair to call them out when they encourage the behavior. As LinkedIn did this week, with this gem of an email subject that landed in my inbox yesterday: “Kaila, see how you rank in profile views compared to your connections.”

Look, it’s bad enough that social media, by its very nature, can contribute to feelings of inadequacy and envy, and LinkedIn is generally not an egregious offender in that regard. But this headline is blatantly manipulative, designed to touch every raw nerve of doubt that, well, you just don’t measure up. They might as well say, “Kaila, you aren’t a LOSER, are you???”

I’m not a loser, in case you were wondering, and neither are you. You’re not a loser even if you’re in the lowest percentile of LinkedIn profile views. You’re not a loser even if, like “South Park”’s Kip Drordy, you have 0 friends on Facebook -- or if, like many of my friends, you’re not on Facebook at all. You’re not a loser if your Klout score goes down, or if your life isn’t perfectly Instagrammable.

These sites don’t tell us whether we’re winning at life. They tell us whether we’re winning at using a particular platform to convey a particular version of ourselves.

Don’t we have bigger things to worry about?

Tags: social media
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3 comments about "Social Nets Blatantly Stoking The Fires Of Insecurity".
  1. Ari Rosenberg from Performance Pricing, LLC , June 28, 2014 at 8:34 a.m.
    Kaila, first I have to tell you that you continue to be my favorite writer on Mediapost and two, over 60 days ago I walked away from Facebook and Twitter -- I deleted the apps on my phone (but did not shutdown my account) and I feel materially better about myself and my life and I don't miss it one bit -- your column is spot on. Ari
  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , June 28, 2014 at 10:28 a.m.
    Bless you. As Willy Loman/Arthur Miller shows us, we all have self destructive tendencies.
  3. Kaila Colbin from Missing Link , June 28, 2014 at 3:32 p.m.
    Thanks, guys! Really appreciate your kind comments :)