This photo is from my personal account @alivenue

The Rise of Social Media Left me Begging For Validation

By Ali McPherson

It is 2016, and almost everyone has some form of connection to social media. You walk along the streets of New York and you see a young man or woman tripping over themselves to find the best lighting for the perfect selfie. A few minutes later that same person will be searching for a filter to cover the ‘best’ lighting. This same photo will be circulated on almost every platform that he or she has. It is uploaded to Facebook and later uploaded to Instagram.

There are endless ways that the exact photo will be circulated. Depending on that person’s social status, there is an expectation for how many likes they should receive at a given time. For an average person that can be fifty to a hundred likes in the span of two hours or for an ‘Insta-famous person” that could be five hundred to a thousand likes in the span of forty minutes. If the amount of likes are not up to par, that photo is deleted, never to be seen again. The next day, the cycle starts all over again.

As a twenty-year old New York writer, social media is all around me, at all times. There is no escaping it. As a current Instagram user and former Facebook user, I know how addicting those platforms can be. Facebook was a very unsatisfying platform to have. Between the constant posting, and obsessing over likes, it was enough to make me want to scream. It has been almost a year since I deactivated my Facebook, and it was a decision I still stand by today.

Thinking back to my days on Facebook, I couldn’t remember a single day where I hadn’t posted every emotion I had felt and every event that had happened. I would check the amount of likes I received and compare it to my friend’s likes, which was always unsatisfying. It led me to feel insecure and later pushed me to completely remove myself from it. After getting rid of Facebook, Instagram began to take center stage in my life. I found myself addicted to the filters and the idea of creating a better version of myself. I began to realize that validation was the one thing I craved. First, it was through Facebook and then it was through Instagram. Although I took the initiative to completely remove myself from Facebook, the pressure to keep up with what and how everyone is eating, drinking, exercising, and living, was still taking over my life.

This photo is from my personal account @alivenue
This photo is from my personal account @alivenue

In (I used to be Human Being) published in NY Mag, Andrew Sullivan described his struggles with being too connected to social media. Although, unlike Sullivan, my story did not result in checking into a retreat center for this struggle, it is an article that relates to many others like myself. Sullivan states, “I was, in other words, a very early adopter of what we might now call living-in-the-web. And as the years went by, I realized I was no longer alone…..It was ubiquitous now, this virtual living, this never-stopping, this always-updating.”

Sullivan was so attached to his phone and so detached from reality, he checked himself into a meditation retreat center. This is not just something that affects the youth, it has become an epidemic for all ages. Our phone addictions, and our constant use of social media lead us to lose sight of who we really are, and leave us wanting more, never satisfied, always needing to update our Instagram, or Twitter, as a way to update ourselves. Andrew Sullivan is on to something when he shows us through his own life experiences, that this is not what living should be about.

In a recent interview with Alison Tucker, who is currently a sophomore at the New School, Tucker discussed her own struggles regarding social media, and admitted to deactivating all of her social media accounts. Tucker described her past relationship with social media as, “A relationship far too compulsive, dependent, addictive, and unhealthy. I was, admittedly, an avid user. I posted pictures on Facebook and Instagram constantly, I used Snapchat to document my everyday life, I took too many selfies, and I spent even more time scrolling through useless social media feeds looking at what everyone else was doing. In my opinion, the worst kind of person.”

“It’s an attractive concept if you think about it. It lures us in, only for us to eventually find out that this constant affirmation is merely a temporary high. The social media paradox: a feeling of self-confidence and the crash that follows. I remember this concept very much, and how it made me feel. A pathetic need to showcase my life. Nevertheless, once you put yourself in that cycle it’s hard to come out and go from one extreme to the other. So, you have to keep up with it — and that’s what I did, until I reached my tipping point.”

Similar to Alison Tucker, I myself have reached my tipping point which was why I made the decision to deactivate my Facebook. The constant need to post, and update every aspect of my life became too overwhelming. It was one of the best decisions I had ever made. Although I continue to use Instagram, only time will tell if someday I decide to deactivate that platform as well. For now, like many others, I find myself in the ‘in-between’ in regards to getting rid of the destructive use of my time, while still depending on it for a temporary high. If I ever find myself on the other side, otherwise known as a better place where social media is not the center of the universe, it will be a sweet victory.

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