Approval: what we can do about needing it so much.

Next time you’re standing in a long line with no friends nearby, I dare you to leave your phone in your pocket. Take in the environment around you. Notice things. We’re a part of the “technological age”, which makes it really difficult to avoid, right?

It’s just so much easier to access that precious cyber world that has nice pictures and little thumbs of approval every time you need to feel good.

With the ability to get “likes”, profile views, little twitter hearts, follows, and now those wonderful Facebook-integrated reactions, our brains are becoming conditioned to anticipate responses. Every time we post a new photo, have a clever status update, or want to write one of those ridiculous posts that ends with, “rant over”, we expect something. Even if the response is negative, at least someone is paying attention.

There’s a fairly common social psychological concept called “the looking-glass self”. This concept is based on our own understanding of how others perceive us. For example, to my mother I may still be an irresponsible child, and to my peer I may be a good friend, but to the security guard at work I may be the comedian that’s always cracking a joke while passing by. So, based on another person’s perception of me, I may actually alter my interaction with that person to fit some mold that has been subconsciously formed over time. Now, this is somewhat of an extreme example, as most people in our lives have multiple perceptions of us depending on the circumstance, but you get the point. By consistently relying upon this “cyber approval”, we are forming ourselves into different people based on less intentional responses that we receive.

“The three-year-old who lies about taking a cookie isn’t really a liar after all. He simply can’t control his impulses. He then convinces himself of a new truth and, eager for your approval, reports the version that he knows will make you happy.” -Cathy Rindner Tempelsman

My challenge would be to get away from this kind of thinking. We all need a break from social media once in a while. It is in fact it’s own culture. The more enthralled we become with it’s daily routine, the more it becomes our daily routine. After a while, an addiction is formed. At times it seems that we can’t go a day without posting a selfie. Instead, maybe we should start enjoying that time with our loved ones and just be present, rather than focusing in on “us” through a frame or a lens.

So, how do we do this then? How do we begin turning back the clock on social media and keep the outside noise at bay? 
Here’s a start:

  • Commit an hour every day to putting your phone down. Like, put it all the way down. Don’t even check texts or notifications. Leave it there.
    Read a book, try a new recipe, learn an instrument, play a board game, etc.
    This will help you participate in a healthy self-care activity. Maybe you need to unwind from a long day at work or just need some time to yourself!
  • Next time you find yourself grasping at your phone to save you from an awkward situation, create conversation with a stranger (yes, even if it’s about the weather).
    To me, this is a lost art. Creating conversation gives you raw communication and allows you to distinguish expression, mannerisms, and tone. This all sounds very basic, but social media has begun to expunge face-to-face conversation.
  • Simply spend less time posting on social media.
    Less time posting means less time spent. Without our continual effort in perpetuating responses, we won’t find ourselves in dire need of that elusive approval.

Having the ability to separate ourselves entirely from the cyber world and it’s approval is unrealistic and seems unreasonable. After all, social media has proven to be a great avenue for certain things, no doubt. Although with practice, we may be able to limit the overall negative influences that it creates in our lives from a psychological standpoint. Receiving encouragement and having the opportunity to read the nice things people have to say about you is not a bad thing, but when you find yourself engulfed in the comments and dependent upon the reactions that people produce, it becomes unhealthy. So, next time you find yourself conjuring up a photo or a post for the purpose of those little blue thumbs, put the phone down, take a deep breath, and just know that you don’t need them to be good enough.

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