Just post better!
I recently read an article from the “Tiny Vulnerabilities” Substack by Megan Zolorycki, a writer talking openly about the not-so-pretty parts of the human experience.
In one of her articles, Megan writes:
The mantra of my generation: don’t be better, just post better.
As someone with more than a few haircuts behind me, this statement took me by surprise. I knew that many of our younger generations are under pressure to have a carefully curated social media presence, I just wasn’t aware that the pressure was so significant.
While there is often pressure on people to look right to fit in, it seems that many of our young people now have the added burden of needing to have the perfect Instagram or TikTok post.
During a recent visit to family in the U.K., my partner’s 13-year-old niece accompanied us on a day out shopping. I lost count of the number of times she would quickly strike a pose, snap a photo with her phone and distribute the image to her social media circle. One purchase of the day resulted in an oversize carry bag with a specific brand name on it, which apparently, in the teenage world, was a desirable accessory. Not only the brand was important, but the size of the carry bag indicated that a significant amount was spent at said establishment. This was duly posted and presented to her social circle. The reality was that my partner had stumped up for a single item at the store, and they had run out of regular bags and gave us an oversized one instead. Never let the truth get in the way of a good social media post. The excitement of the 13-year-old was disproportionate to the item purchased, it was all about the opportunity to maximise social media engagement.
It appears that it is all about the post rather than the experience. In September 2015, an image was published in which a crowd are trying to catch a glimpse of Johnny Depp at the Boston premiere of the film Black Mass.
In the image, most of the crowd are looking at the scene through their screens, trying no doubt to capture the right image for their social media feed. One older woman is simply leaning on the fence, watching with her own eyes and living the experience. One wonders who will have the better memories of the day, those who watched what was happening, or those who have witnessed the event through a screen. To be fair, those screen-watchers should have a record of the event to look at, but I wonder if in trying to take the perfect image, they might have missed the full impact of the moment.
It is well understood that chasing likes on social media seems to be addictive, and many of our young people are already hooked.
There are documented studies about the impact of “likes” on the happiness of social media users. The culprit is dopamine, a “feel-good” chemical that naturally occurs in the body. Dopamine triggers our internal rewards system, making us feel better. Dopamine has many other functions in the body but is most often associated with reward or the anticipation of reward.
We get a hit of dopamine when we eat nice food, go shopping, exercise or any one of many triggers that give us pleasure, sex, drugs and rock-n-roll included. One of the triggers of dopamine is connections with other people, and social media mimics human connection.
Anna Lembke MD, a psychiatry professor and Chief of the Addiction Medicine Dual Diagnosis Clinic at Stanford University, says that:
“We’ve evolved over millions of years to want to connect with people because it helps us protect ourselves from predators, use scarce resources, find a mate. One of the ways our brain gets us to make those connections is to release dopamine.”
“Social media is basically a way to drugify human connection,”
Added to this, the brain’s reward chemistry is most active when we talk about ourselves. In normal (offline) conversations, it is estimated that we talk about ourselves about 30-40% of the time.
Social media, on the other hand, is all about featuring your life and achievements. Up to 80% of your time on social media may be talking about yourself. Posts, likes, retweets, and followers all stimulate the brain to release dopamine. This creates a self-fulfilling cycle of posting for rewards to feel good, with less effort than it would take in real-life face-to-face connections.
Sure post all the positive stuff you want on your social media feed, get the likes, get the retweets, but please, take the time to live the experience.
The best relationships aren't posted all over social media.
Thank you for reading, have a comfortable day.
While this blog is free to read, and I intend to keep it free, please consider a subscription. For a few dollars a month, you can show your support and help thin the blood out of my coffee system.