Posted by: Chelsea Novak | March 9, 2012

On validation

A few days ago a started an experiment. I stopped checking Facebook and Twitter. Cold turkey.

I was having a session with my therapist (yeah, I go to therapy. Don’t you?) trying to unravel some stuff that I had seriously raveled and I realized there was something amiss with these digital social connections I spend so much of my time on.  More and more, they were making me sad, rather than helping me feel connected to friends and events around the world. I think social media is an amazing and powerful thing. Something with so much potential for good, but I think I was doing it wrong.

So I took a couple of days off to think about it. What was I hoping to get from my interactions on social media? The primary thing is connecting with people I know and like. Check. That’s good. The secondary is exposure to news, ideas and issues like Twitter can only provide. These things are also all good, but there’s this other thing. This troublesome human thing that was also driving me to be social. I was looking for validation. Validation that people like me, that I’m funny and that my life is interesting or special in some way. Troublesome.

This kind of thinking isn’t bad. Like I said, it’s human, it’s normal and we all do it. But it got to a point where it was out of balance for me and that was a problem. A friend was telling me last night about this phenomenon, where kinds of interaction on social media can actually make people more depressed, rather than the happy glow we get from feeling connected and loved. The reason being that many of us (myself included) are conveying a life that’s usually positive, possibly a life we’re not even really living (deep thought alert). Maybe it’s because few people want to air their sadness publicly (which I get), but the result is that it feels every status update you read is that everyone else’s life is awesome while you’re feeling crappy and you can only wonder what’s wrong with you. You don’t infer that everyone is also worried about money, job security, politics, putting on a few pounds or completely overwhelmed by life. They are – they’re just not putting it in their status update. So everything appears to skew positive.

I realized during my wee break that I was feeling a lot happier being away from Twitter and Facebook (Facebook especially). M kindly passed on important news and a funny link or two. I texted (even talked!) more with friends and was able to focus better at work. I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night and reach for my phone to see what was happening in the world. I just slept. I really wasn’t missing watching arguments or seeing updates that felt like daggers in my heart. Didn’t miss that at all. I also didn’t miss the pressure I was putting on myself to live a life worthy of constant happy, awesome, fantastic updates.

So I took some action. The first action was go look at Twitter and the kinds of feeds I was following. And then I culled by a magnitude of 100s. I don’t want to get into the specifics of why, but it falls 100% into the “it’s not you, it’s me category” so don’t take it personally, please. Next, I’m limiting my participation in Facebook to private messages (there are some people I adore who only use Facebook) and a couple of private groups I enjoy. Twitter will still post there, but that’s about it for now.

We’ll see how this experiment goes and if I can get things back into balance.

Today’s sing-a-long song: “The Great Escape” by We Are Scientists


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