We See Ourselves

 

Image - leftofurban

Image – leftofurban

There is a dangerous seduction in social media – where time spent fluffing and pruning websites and connecting with followers could be better spent writing great content.

And, although web presence is key for all writers, and an up-to date platform is essential; we always run the risk of ‘just one more’ whatever it is – one more link to add, page to tweak, or yet another social media site to update.

It’s the ‘damned if you do, and damned if you don’t’ scenario. A writer needs a website – a platform to show case and promote their work from, as your site becomes a point of connection for those seeking you out. And, in those all-important query letters, having a website to feature your work and list publications is vital.

But – and here’s the but – it shouldn’t be all encompassing.

And that’s truly the danger in social media – the tendency to let the cat out of the bag, if you will, spilling your guts (and your work) before your product or platform is ready in a fleeting attempt to grab a few RTs on Twitter or have somebody (anybody) glance at your page.

We live in a society of chronic-oversharing, and exposing-all – revealing intimate details about our days and ourselves before a bunch of strangers. Which is fine, because that is the very nature of the internet – a series of webs bringing people together, and sharing common interests, but –

Here’s the but again –

It’s easy to get caught up in over-exposure. Sharing all and revealing too-personal details will only undermine your authority and expertise your niche (there still is a thing called too much information, and nobody really wants to know what their marketing consultant had for lunch).

So why do we do it?

Ah, there’s the big question – why do we continue to play with social media and get hooked in?

Again, it’s the very nature of online social interactions – each one gauged and evaluated through a series of ‘likes’, ‘shares’, and ‘RTs’ – it’s a token system that encourages us to give more – to keep pulling down the handle of the slot machine if you will. (The scientific term for this is partial reinforcement, not every interaction is rewarded, so we keep trying to repeat an action that will enable us to ‘score big’ – and get a bunch of ‘likes’ or ‘shares’ – aka winning on the virtual slot machine.)

The more we participate online, the more ‘likes’ or ‘shares’ or whatevers we earn, the more ‘successful’ we are. Seriously, think for a moment about the number of Twitter or Facebook followers you have. The higher the number, the more likely you are engaged and influential on social media. Total number of followers on various platforms becomes another form of the social media token economy – which isn’t always a bad thing, but (here’s another but) –

In some strange way, we’ve internalized a token economy as a replacement for social interaction. We ascribe value to each ‘like’ or ‘share’, and the problem comes when the quest for high numbers supersedes our need for human connection.

Now, I am fully supportive of meaningful dialogue and discussion online – it’s a way of truly understanding both the world and yourself – and, I can honestly say that I’ve never met some of my good friends with whom I chat with every day in real life.

But – and here’s another one, but –

We’ve joined the cult of celebrity, and are busy grabbing more than our fifteen minutes of fame. We’ve become so intoxicated by the rush of earning ‘likes’ or ‘shares’ (and scoring big when others acknowledge us) that we’ve turned ourselves into spectacles, walking reality shows that broadcast every moment of every day for our audience to tune in and see.

What we’ve failed to grasp is that we are our own audience – the token economy of social media ensures that we will keep playing the slot machine – earning ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ – not for others, but to tally up scores for our own twisted score cards.

Facebook and Instagram feeds are filled with selfies, random pictures snapped throughout the day verifying our own existence – a cup of coffee, a sandwich, our shoes, our pet cat.

The tiny details of your day are broadcast to share with others, yes, but – here’s the last but –

In the final tallying of the points systems of social media, we seek something truly reinforcing – self validation. Pictures of us, as we see us. The things that are important to us – our coffee, our sandwich, our shoes, our cat – our shared with the world, because they reflect our own visions of who we are. We want others to see us, the way we do.

In short, we are performing for ourselves.

*

When George Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four, he never imagined that we’d be taking the pictures ourselves.

 

Image -- creative commons

Image — creative commons

 

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