Constantly Seeking Approval

“Please like me.”

“Please like what I have to say.”

“Please love me.”

“Why do you only like what I have to say, why didn’t you love it?”

“I think you suck for not liking me.”

Looks sort of mental doesn’t it?   Did some emotional crippled person write this before going into a manic episode?    Didn’t Glenn Close say this in Fatal Attraction?

This is what humans are saying over three billion times a day on Facebook alone, according to marketland.com, a website that covers the digital marketing industry.   Every single day we’re receiving feedback from other humans via social media, on whether or not they approve of our posts, comments and views.    We’re being constantly told when people think we’re really cool, sorta cool or not cool at all.    Since humans are biologically social creatures, this kind of interaction is pretty amazing to our brains, and of course, can be quite addictive.    But is it also turning everyone into incredibly needy people whom now constantly crave approval?  No doubt you’ve posted something you feel is pretty thought provoking on social media and wondered why more people didn’t “love” it… maybe it even bothered you to the point where you thought something might be wrong with your internet connection….surely there should be more notifications by now?    And yes, I’m speaking from experience.

Social media has given us the ability to participate in thousands of popularity contests a day, some of which we’re competing in ourselves.    One would be lying if they didn’t admit their personal sense of satisfaction when a blurb they post receives positive responses in the form of thumbs up or hearts, validations from human kind that you’re on the right track… to something or another.    This goes the other way too, especially when you post something you feel so powerful, only to be knocked down by so many, crushing your hopes for acknowledgement, sending you into a downward spiral of more angry faces, or the inappropriately placed laughing emoji, utterly mocking your contribution as completely useless.   Now you’re in an approval deficit and must recover… you need more hearts… quick post something funny ASAP!     And yes, I’m speaking from experience again.

Does this happen to everyone though?    Are there some people out there that haven’t turned into little digital crack monkeys, obsessively banging on the lever for more?  Are these the ones that “don’t give a fuck” anyway?    Are these the people that throw trash out of their car windows… and… and… it’s hard to even type… don’t recycle?   Do these people post on social media and don’t even care about the likes or those beautiful little hearts?  They must be assholes for sure, because if they cared about anything, they would care how many people think cow cuddling is awesome.   I would imagine these people probably also spend very little time on social media, after all why would they even bother?    They’re clearly not social to begin with.

I’m new to a lot of this Facebook stuff.    I’ve been a member less than a year and I’ve connected with some amazing and wonderful people, embarked on new adventures and even learned a lot about myself, so I’m not knocking it.    I’m just wondering if all these little doses of digital crack is healthy for humans as a whole…distracting us from the real work that needs to be done, whether it be knocking on doors, talking to our neighbors or doing the dishes.   Three billion times a day we’re communicating with others, sharing our ideas, but is it for the sake of sharing or the little buzz we get when someone likes it?    Are our intentions really to make the world a smaller place, or are we just seeking approval, trying to make us feel better about ourselves?    Do we really want to save our planet or does it just make us feel less lonely that others feel the same way?  So many questions.

Perhaps you can separate the ones that are just getting “high” on approval from those with other intentions, by looking at their actions and lives outside of social media.   For example, if someone feels the need to constantly post about saving alien beings from Mars, but never takes the time to even look up at the red planet at night, perhaps they’re just hopping on a bandwagon because it’s popular, and it feels great to get those little thumbs and beautiful hearts.  But take a person that has invested their time, energy and money into a cause, then it’s likely they’re not a digital crack monkey, and their position deserves more attention.  Maybe those folks are too busy with really changing the world, and not how many likes they have.   They haven’t been seduced by the noise of social media or the allure of acceptance… they are out there effecting change before it’s too late, before the opportunity passes and scrolls off their feed.

If you liked this article please like it, or even better love it and share it with your friends.   Please?   Pretty please?  I need a fix like now.

 

 

Journeys: How Winn-Dixie Changed My Life

Life wasn’t easy when I was in my late teens.   I was 17 and completely lost.  I was sleeping all day and awake only at night, a soon to be high-school dropout fighting depression and the realization that I was gay.   Therapy was gradually helping me out, but there were many days when the thought of living life as gay man would churn my stomach.   Those days were extra dark, mostly spent staring at the ceiling, contemplating the best way to end my life.  Sometimes I’d be on the phone well into the night and early morning, talking to one of the few friends I had. Unfortunately, she was also suicidal and shared a very dark place.  Instead of lifting each other up, we’d compare notes on the best and least painful ways of making it all go away.   My mom picked up the phone once and overheard the conversation.  Unable to process what was going on in my life, she started yelling at me… screaming… words of desperation… saying I was “sick” and then she broke down crying.   Mom was fighting her own demons, trying the best to raise us without our father around, while her youngest son, her baby, was slipping through her fingers before her eyes.

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The Toxicity of Social Media

I’ve only been on Facebook for a short amount of time relative to most, a couple of months has gone by since I made the leap into this digital equivalent of humans in herds.  I administer content management systems at work (ECM), so the least thing I needed was a personalized version.   Then my blog came along and I gave into the temptation of having a platform to share my articles.   While during my first week on Facebook, I was amazed by this unified form of consciousness I seemed to be observing, I quickly became aware of a darker side to this mass method of communication.  Unlike social interactions in the flesh, people feel free to act or react in ways that they wouldn’t do so in public.  I used to teach an orientation class at work on cyber manners, back when this new thing called the Internet became a tool for business.   It was then that I was first introduced to the analogy of people acting the same way online, as they do in their cars, especially during incidents of road rage.  The comparison was made of someone getting in front of you in the movie line, to if they did the same action in their car while driving.   In the later example, you might scream and yell at the person, shoot them the bird and hold your hand down on the horn.    While if you acted the same way face to face, you’d probably scare the shit out of everyone around you and might even get arrested.

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My First Week On Facebook

Many of you have never known a world without Facebook.   By the time you were old enough to read and use a computer, this revolutionary technology of communication and complex algorithms that identified friend or foe was already around.   You’ve never known a world without a friends list, a world without a wall or timeline, a world without this connection that spans continents, age, sex or sexuality.   You’ve been born into this arena of mass communication that I never knew.   Until now.

I decided to join Facebook only for selfish reasons, I was a frustrated writer and I wanted the world to see what I had to offer, wanted an audience that would appreciate what I had to say.    I wasn’t prepared for what I would find.  Initially it was much of the same, guys looking to hook up.  After all, I was fresh meat as my partner Eric put it, the new kid on the block people had somehow missed while looking for new friends to add to their ever growing list.

But what I found was humanity in it’s best and worst forms.   I found people bearing their souls, telling anyone that would listen about the darkest times in their lives.  I found people sharing stories of hope and love, and I found the in-between… people neither happy nor sad, just those content with telling others about the remains of their day.

In this first week of Facebook I’ve seen some pretty intense drama but I’ve also seen a global community seeking change.    I’ve seen a collective consciousness crying out to the Universe, wanting its voice to be heard, needing empathy and compassion, love and respect.    I’ve seen hearts broken and families reunited.   I’ve seen way too many puppies and kittens and other furry creatures that still manage to make me laugh.  I’ve seen what it is to be human.    The good, the bad and the not so certain.

While the technology is old in industry terms, and some would argue its time has come and gone, I think there’s a more important ideal it brings to those seeking truth.   It’s our message in the bottle, our representation of what the human race considers dear and precious, no matter how obscure the author is or was.

Perhaps in a millennia or so, the Earth might be a charred cinder, floating in space, the end result of occupants too intelligent for their own good.   But in the ash, perhaps a server or two will survive and provide some passerby a glimpse into what it was to be human.   That in itself is priceless.

Thank you Facebook.

Siri Is A Psycho B—-!

The other evening, as I was getting ready for bed, I remembered I had a doctors appointment coming up so I asked Siri, my iPhone assistant, when it was.

“Your next doctor’s appointment is at 10 AM tomorrow.” she said in her Australian female voice that always sounds like she’s grinning.

“Oh shit” I thought to myself, that was close, I almost missed my appointment, thank goodness for Siri! I tucked myself into bed and drifted off to sleep feeling like my world was perfectly organized thanks to my faithful digital companion.

The next morning was one of those you tend to remember for the next couple of weeks. I was rushing to get out the door and the forces of nature were clearly working against me. Everything from my dogs being uncooperative during their walk, to crazy drivers, to a lady literally sitting in her car at the parking garage entrance, waiting for an attendant to push the button for her to get a ticket. Maybe she was a germaphobe but seriously what else could go wrong? It was already 10 AM and I had to find parking in this very strangely laid out garage. I ended up finding a spot almost instantly, but of course the young girl in the car had to check her Facebook before driving away, fully aware of me waiting patiently. I’m sure she was basking in the temporary sense of power the Universe bestowed upon her.

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Where Shopping Should Be A Pleasure

Our society has changed lots in the last 100 years, technology is often the focus of these changes and many times blamed for them.   From workplace automation killing jobs formerly filled by humans, to the decline of bookstores thanks to e-readers, technology is almost always left holding the candlestick in the library with some rope for good measure.  Recently Amazon.com and other online retailers have been designated the destroyer of brick and mortar stores, the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades.    Macy’s, BestBuy, Sears and even Walmart aren’t immune to the sting of e-commerce.    But what if this change or evolution in the way consumers buy goods is only partially due to technology and more of a symptom of something bigger and greater?  While everyone is trying to compete with online giants like Amazon and increase their online presence, perhaps they should be looking no further than their own stores and realize they forgot how to do something.    Customer service.

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The Online World Few Remember

I heard on the news the other day that emojis are used in something like over three billion texts a day.  Holy shit, three billion transfers of information from one human to another, intended to be read immediately, sometimes from across the globe and much of it by teenagers gossiping, in love or breaking up.  Yet I remember a time (oh no, I’ve officially become my mom), when the online world was in its infancy and almost like a secret society.   We operated late at night because most of the household was sleeping and you needed to use the phone line.  Yeah, most people only had one phone and one line back then.    I have such fond memories of late nights with lights turned low, a gentle hum from the huge piece of metal and plastic that was my IBM AT, and a low resolution monitor displaying the amount of xmodem blocks remaining until I could play the coolest four color shareware game around.    Ah yes, the good ‘ol days.

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