Like the real thing

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Your social media profile is not a measuring stick for success

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published by The Other Press. March 23, 2015

I can be certain that when I write a Facebook post, someone will read it. There are few other places where you can push a message publicly and have it received by those who you intended it for. If I want a close group of friends to read my inside joke I can link them to it. If I want to omit my colleagues from my radical political point of views—should I have any—I can simply adjust the privacy settings. We are all media producing outlets, however, today we aren’t using social media to present anything of value, we are merely shouting into the void, uttering mundane nothings, and expecting praise, affirmation, or approval in return.

We are living in an age where we are “liking,” “retweeting,” and “sharing” too casually. The reason is because the gamified aspect of social media is so addicting. We feel compelled to let people know about our meals, our feelings, our day at work, our vacation spot, our new relationships, our athletic achievements, and many other not-so-pivotal details of our lives. We present the part of ourselves we want people to see. We are our own public relations manager, but the thing is it always comes across as contrived, arrogant, or needy.

Everything we post today is measured as if “likes” have any merit to our real experiences. They don’t. So what? Liking is fun. It’s good for the human spirit. Sure it nurtures a narcissistic aspect of our being, but what harm does that do? Why can’t we like whatever we feel like liking? Why can’t we follow whomever we feel like following?

The thing with Facebook and other social media algorithms is that your feed impacts your friends. You are representing all the boring bullshit you are liking and sharing. Marketers see your behaviour and in return present more branded material on your news feed, more Buzzfeed surveys, and more peer-to-peer propaganda. By liking, commenting, and sharing content you are not invested in, you are inadvertently spamming your fellow followers, friends, and fans. If you don’t value the content and you don’t believe your social media community will appreciate it, don’t like it.

You are not obligated to like your best friends’ posts about their lunches or the way the Starbucks employee messed up in spelling their names. You are not obligated to like a news article your mother shared. Social media does a fine job recycling content. And with the new trending column on the side of Facebook, you really don’t need to share any pertinent stories at all; nobody is relying on you for the breaking news.

On social media, we often get our priorities mixed up. We get derailed from the informative and valued path into a trivial and anecdotal direction. Take the black and blue optical illusion dress we all saw earlier this year on social media. We couldn’t stop talking about it, because people wouldn’t stop talking about it. That’s the thing; it’s a vicious cycle. If you want a topic to die, you need to stop contributing to it. That’s why we should like, comment, and share sparingly.

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