FRIDAY THOUGHTS: GIVE ME THE ONLINE VALIDATION I NEED

Friday, 31 August 2018



'Seeking validation will keep you trapped. You don't need anyone or anything to approve of your worth. When you understand this, you will be free." - Unknown

So let's set the scene. You're just about to upload a selfie that it's taken you 15 minutes and 200 snaps to take. Finally you select the least offensive one, exhaust all the editing apps on your phone, and have instagram open at the ready, waiting for the best moment to post for optimum engagement time. You proceed to upload. 10 minutes later, 3 likes. Hmmmm I must've uploaded when everyone is offline; let me slyly delete and re-upload in an hr. You carry out the same process once more. Once again, likes are few and far between. Your thought process is now: "Right. Fucking hell, this is it. I'm never posting a selfie again. This is decided proof that I belong in an ugly home."

I've set up this post in a classic, semi-jokey, self-deprecating 'Eves' fashion, but the reality of this is much more serious I think. Because I know that there has been many a time that a situation like this has completely destroyed my mood. It's led to me spending the whole day in bed. Feeding off this supposed judgement on my appearance to then fuel negative thinking and depressive thinking patterns on everything I dislike about myself. It can escalate so quickly. A simple drop in the number of likes on one photo from faceless people leads to me questioning everything so quickly. Wishing I looked different to wishing I was different. I doubt I am alone in falling into this trap. Indeed, if what is said is true, and the depression rate is now higher amongst girls who spend a lot of time on social media, then it would seem that a lot of us are suffering. It's led me to ask this question:

Are we too dependent on social media (likes and followers) for our sense of self worth?

Our instagram feeds may be a collection of bright, happy snaps, but underneath there is a dark side of social media, one which leads us to rely on it for an iota of self esteem. 

And it's an easy trap to fall into. 

I've said it before and I'll say it again. The misconception around blogger's is so extreme. We're thought to be narcissistic, egotistical people, obsessed with our appearances and extremely full of ourselves, but more often than not, this could not be further from the truth. Indeed, often, we are the most insecure. 

There are so many of us who develop a toxic relationship with social media, and often this is the person who is most invested in it. The pictures we post aren't 'showing off', each of us believing ourselves to be model status, our feeds thus becoming some ego reel; a shrine dedicated to our own self-importance. Instead, there's often a peculiar self-hating, self-deprecating relationship with them. They can so easily become unhealthy - an outlet we use to fulfil the self-esteem hole that we so desperately lack. 

Needless to say I have fallen into this category. 

My relationship with self-worth has always been complicated. For such a long time there simply was none. Self-esteem was something I didn't even attempt to develop, because I just didn't even think I deserved it. I was so used to being deeply unhappy with who I was that I paradoxically become quite content to stay that way. It has been a constant mental battle, one where I try to separate genuine feelings of lack of worth with feelings that are symptomatic of depression. Things have gotten better since I started counselling and anti-depressants, but I can often still fall into the trap of relying on social media, instagram likes or Facebook likes, for some sense of self-worth. 

It feels like such a horrible confession to make. But often, I have leaned on social media for that validation. 

I'm sure a lot of us do this to an extent, but I think it becomes unhealthy when the online space becomes the only place you derive any sense of confidence or self-worth. Because cyber space is so fickle. It's trivial, it's noisy, and ultimately, it can be nasty. Internet trolls show no mercy. As soon as you open yourself up to the world, you become vulnerable. If you're already riddled with insecurity then this becomes ten times worse, since any small opinion or action becomes valuable to you, and the worth of those things becomes so warped and over-inflated. At this point, you can then forget a lack of likes; any genuinely negative comment could destroy you. 

And it's devoid of substance. Social media validation is like eating air, you're never going to be satiated. A thousand likes on one photo doesn't satisfy you. It may be an ego boost for a couple of hours, but ultimately it doesn't fix anything. No amount of positive comments or likes will fix a perception you have of yourself, so it's bound to be unfulfilling. It doesn't paper over all the deep insecurities you constantly carry with you. It's a plaster; a quick fix to a much deeper wound - it leaves you needing more. You keep going back for top ups, and before you know it it becomes your own personal drug. A way to feel better about yourself in the same way alcohol or drugs might. 

Spending hours each week editing pictures of yourself can actually be incredibly damaging, particularly when you already have self esteem issues. It is very easy to become overly occupied, obsessed, even, with they way other people see you, and, as a consequence, the way you see yourself. And not even just with the way you look, but the way your personality comes across also. 

I think we need to become more aware of the way in which social media can foster such a distorted relationship with yourself. One that is moulded by the opinions of people who don't even know you, and a search for acceptance in a fickle and trivial cyber world.

What's the moral to this story? I'm not sure there is one. I haven't found the answers. But I guess I just want to urge you to think about your relationship with social media, particularly if you've been feeling particularly low in self-esteem, and spend a substantial amount of time with it. I try my hardest to work on my relationship with social media - it sounds silly but it's true. I try to take breaks when I realise it's beginning to consume me, when I notice it's affecting my mood or the way I see myself. I try to distance my own self-esteem from that connected with social media - I've come too far with my mental health to let someone or something as trivial as social media destroy it. But every so often it'll creep back in. Watch out for it. Think about the way you engage with social media, and the power it has over the way you feel about yourself. How one particular person not liking your photo on Facebook then becomes a whole mindfuck - a certainty that they've stopped liking you or having something against you. Think of the way in which your mood changes when a photo of your face gets less likes than a flatlay you posted. Think of the way you compare yourself to other girls who have thousands of likes on a selfie very similar to yours. Think of the ugly, jealous emotions this cultivates. And then think, why does this have so much power over me? 

Ultimately, the only one who should have that sort of power of your self-esteem is you, not people sitting behind a computer screen who you have never and will never meet. The journey to self-acceptance is a complicated and deeply personal one, and one that should exclude something as arbitrary as social media. I'm sure there will come a time where we move on from it, and then will regret the time we spent worrying so much about the way we came across on it. Social media is fun and I love it - not just for the lovely comments you can receive from others (because there is no denying that that feels good and there's nothing wrong with that!), but for the community it has created, the people I've got to speak to, the banter, and the space it's given me to channel my creativity. Searching for online validation in our digital age is an inevitable and normal consequence, but depending on it is not. It's important that we remember this as we navigate the online world and continue our own journeys to self-acceptance and self-confidence. 

Until next time, 
Bisous <3

Eva
xxx

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