Social Media Melted My Brain

Social media is a slippery little parasite. It consumes its consumer, it grows with our egos. It is a quantity based acceptance, meaning we can now measure popularity with a number. It simplifies the inferiority complex. It summarises us. It brands us.

How do we know if people like us? Social media. If we share a picture on Instagram, and that picture receives a number of “likes” that we deem acceptable (based on our individual expectations), then all is well in our little world, our boat has not been rocked. We have been verified by the community, both friends and strangers alike. They have taken the time (no more than three seconds) to click a button, informing us and everyone else that we have value at that very moment.

If, however, we receive an underwhelming response to the picture (heaven forbid) then the very walls of our narcissistic health crash down, resounding in our heads and hearts until we go to sleep that night. We don’t seem to matter the way we did yesterday. Our worthiness has been reassessed, and we need redemption, quickly, in the form of another successful post.

We are careful in how often we react to social media content, because it is our currency, and we don’t wish to spend it all at once. If we are conservative with our “likes”, but still receive plenty in return, then we are rich. If we give too much away, then our wastefulness reflects our desperation, like being charitable in hope of good karma.

We live in a state of pending. Time between posts is time spent expecting the loving reactions to roll in. Phones in pockets, we click a button, wait for the Twitter, Instagram or Facebook app to refresh for a painstakingly anxious-ridden two seconds (our buzzing excitement in these two seconds is our dopamine at work), and then the votes are in. The number you see before you is like a scale of ecstasy. The bigger the number, the more generous the dose of serotonin. It’s a short-lasting hit, so we’re likely to crave it again and again throughout the day.

What does this mean for us, really? Social media isn’t totally evil, we learn so much from it. We help good causes, share genuine information and connect with people that were previously out of reach via social media. The problem we face, as an impressionable, habit-forming species, is that we don’t like things in moderation, and we don’t like to feel left out.

Social media is high school popularity and rejection all over again. It is our constant battle between being ourselves and being only the better side of ourselves. It simultaneously empowers and belittles us. It leaves us satisfied and malnourished. We have condensed ourselves into a snappy brand of pictures, videos and brief text. Always minimal text. Social media has tapped into our competitiveness. Almost two billion people are trying to simultaneously stand out online. Two billion. An over-saturated market is always devalued. In our constant posting, yelling, participating, we only widen the void between our true selves, with unconditional value, and our branded self, the one whose value we constantly measure and doubt.