Understanding Social (Media) Acceptance


HOW MANY LIKES? How many hearts, re-tweets did you get? How many followers do you have? Do you need the last ten more to make a 1K on your profile page or are you being congratulated on the double digit fan club? Is one more thumbs up sign all you need to feel on top of the world?

Ironically life as we knew it is slowly filtering itself into the virtual world too.

We evolved as social animals: living, hunting, learning, and working cooperatively. To our ancestors, being accepted and helped by the group was the only way they could ensure their own and their offspring’s survival. Rejection could very well kill them. Millennia later and far from the African savanna, humans are still social creatures, and we still need meaningful interpersonal relationships in order to thrive — even the introverts among us. Like hunger or thirst, our need for acceptance emerged as a mechanism for survival.

Now ideally self-acceptance is key. Social acceptance closely follows. The unconditional journey of self-discovery and acceptance enables us to give ourselves fully and freely to the world because then we are not looking for approval, not afraid of being rebuffed and are simply interested in living an authentic life.

Yet, anyone who’s lived through school sports knows the anxiety of being picked last for the team. Or not being picked at all. Or have no friends wait up for you at school recces, or count you in when making plans… gosh! the list is plentiful.

The same feelings of insecurity/melancholy/sadness/desperation bubble up today when no one validates your picture or post. Even when you read messages off someone else’s wall and wish you were a part of their perfect (like really what does that word even mean in this context) lives or when you see people congratulating your ex and their — in a relationship — new love interest.

If truth be told, research proved that as far as the brain is concerned, a broken heart is not so different from a broken arm.

Rejection in any form feels lousy.

How then can we help each other feel accepted, needed and ‘liked’ in the virtual world? Here’s my two (ok three) cents worth of insight as a relatively new kid on the block.

Get in Rapport.

Rapport is a state of trusting openness. Where there is a feeling of closeness and safety. Where by a person is less consciously critical of ideas and suggestions offered to them by another. Where there is (what we refer to in NLP as) a Perception of Likeness and Liking = I like you therefore you can like me.

So how about creating rapport over social media? Let’s be more liberal with our likes and less critical in our comments. Let’s avoid hate speeches and be more sensitive to our choice of words. Let’s pause to like a post or pic before you choose to share/copy-paste it. Instead of thinking that’s nice, why not say it, to the person on their post. Together let’s build a virtual world based on the Perception of Likeness and Liking.

Get Real.

‘Cyberspace’ is not a term generally used any longer. In fact, it seems to me that no one really speaks of a division between the real and the virtual world any longer. Rather, people speak of how close and integrated they are and of technologies and ways to bring them even closer. I think a whole other domain of existence is quietly but rapidly merging with our ‘natural’ existence and unless we are careful the results may not be entirely in our favor.

Take a genuine look at your friend/follower list. How many of them have you interacted with in the last six months? Is it really possible that they all know you, leave aside like you? How many just sit there in your friend list without even pleasantries being exchanged? How many are acquaintances? How many strangers? How many purely cyber- friends?

Which is great when lived in the right spirit. Today technology has opened many doors uniting us across borders. The ability to bring closer distant friends and family as well as the opportunity to know someone which we otherwise would have been most unlikely to meet is one which needs to be acknowledged and appreciated.

Vital then is to be realistic about your friend/follower list.

Along with all the benefits, the virtual world has the ability to make us feel extremely wanted one moment and totally rejected the next. Know that. Accept it.

Focus your attention on the real world.

Give social media only that much thought that it deserves. That much time as is befitting and benefiting. Addictive and compulsive dependency will only bring forth anxiety, despair, loneliness and worse still, illness or depression.

Online social networking–or online anything–gives the impression of individuality, of discrete human beings behind the messages, but the fact is that nothing about the cyber world uniquely or necessarily needs to link to the real world. Therefore, you@whatever may not really be you, it could just as easily be me. Simply give me your username and password.

In retrospect, we should ask ourselves…If we can have and exist in only one of these two worlds, the real or the virtual, which would we choose?

I would choose the real for its sunrises and sunsets, its birds tweeting and flowers blooming, its coffee with conversations and for being touched by a loved one, for its hustle — bustle, and (if I should so choose) for its sheer convenience of being able to bang my head against a real wall.

For more find me @Tasneem Kagalwalla on FB, Twitter and Instagram.