Do you ever find yourself saying , “I hate Facebook, I just want to delete my profile” but somehow find yourself completely unable to sever the ties between you and your online persona? Or start to feel a bit self-conscious after that perfect Instagram post failed to garner the attention that you felt it really should have? Or maybe you noticed how many more followers your fellow twitterian seemed to have than you. This may seem obvious to some, but it struck me one day just how tied our self-esteem has become to the acknowledgement of our peers on social media, and the internet at large.
Every day, millions of people forsake the living of their actual lives for the pursuit of “internet points.” Too many times, I’ve been out at the bar with friends and all I can see are noses in phones. Faces are illuminated by the hypnotic glow of smartphones. Sure you may see the occasional immaculately planned selfie or group photo, but that is almost always followed by the near-obsessive checking of social media, making sure that the “perfect night” you are having is being envied by your virtual following. It seems like the good time one is supposed to be having comes second to the appearance of having an amazing night. Why live life when you can make it look like you are having an wonderful time?
It’s an addiction, and I’m no stranger to it. For those who are familiar with the mega-forum Reddit, then you must also know the strange allure the accrual of karma has on its users. I’m one of those addicts. From the time that I created an account two years ago, I’ve been obsessed with my comment karma score. To those unfamiliar, users on Reddit can upvote or downvote your submission or comment. The thing that separates this from a like/thumbs up/ twitter favorite/whatever is that the website ever-so-thoughtfully keeps track of the number of upvotes you’ve gotten. These points become intoxicating. I’ve wasted entire days trying to make the perfect comment at exactly the right time so that it would garner as much attention as possible. This may seem harmless enough, but it becomes insidious the longer you stay on the website. A successful comment makes you think that you’ve accomplished something. It makes you think “my peers like me, they find me funny, I’m doing something” when in reality your quip and the rush of upvotes that follow are just more of those meaningless internet points I mentioned earlier.
This reliance on social media and the internet has spread to every corner of our daily life. Relationships aren’t real unless they are “Facebook official.” A night on the town isn’t a success if it didn’t produce a picture that all of your friends can compare their lives to. Hell, when I got engaged, it didn’t feel real until all of my virtual followers poured their congratulations onto mine and my fiance’s social media. Our virtual identities have become hopelessly intertwined with our self-esteem. Everything from engagements to the birth of a child must first be perfectly filtered and distributed to the web for it to mean anything. We seek the validation of our peers, whether it’s Facebook, Reddit, or anonymous message board.
Don’t waste away the precious little time that we actually have to make something of ourselves on meaningless virtual accomplishments. My dream in life is to be a writer but I find myself talking about story ideas on Reddit instead of sitting down and doing the work that it takes to actualize my ideas into real, tangible things. I’m sick of squandering my ability on websites that will never mean anything.
It’s high-time to stop living our lives through the approval of others and live the life that lies right in front of us. Get off your computer, go out into the world or at your desk, and do something with the precious gift that we have all been given. Maybe it’s cheesy, but Carpe Diem everybody. Seize the day that’s in front of you and never look back.