There is no question that in the modern world we inhabit, the arrival of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more have been fantastic tools for keeping in contact and up to speed instantly with friends, family and colleagues. Many a relationship would not have survived or even existed if it wasn’t for such tools. And it is par for the course that all new inventions bring brand new problems as well as positives. Given the global nature of social media, the problems it brings are in danger of becoming an epidemic.
A tidal wave of posts showing the fantastic life we are living – regardless of truth… “selfies” photoshopped to within an inch of their lives and more, are a major worry for the development of self-esteem and mental health, particularly in the young, when self-esteem and worth becomes based on the number of likes and comments a post receives.
When Andy Warhol said many moons ago that “in the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes”, I don’t think he envisioned how this would become reality, and indeed that it would be way more than 15 minutes… and worse still, that it would almost always be based on delusion.
Facebook posts and tweets are rarely private which opens up the floodgates for likes, comments – not always positive – retweets, cyber bullying and more. But who is deluding who is a grey area.
My argument is that we are deluding OURSELVES just as much as the people we are trying to fool into thinking that we are fabulous. The neediness of all this is what I find most concerning. People have complained to me that I have liked more of someone else’s posts than theirs, making the assumption that I had even seen theirs. The reality is that posts and tweets are instant and very quickly move down the main page until they are not seen at all. So unless I look at my computer screen or phone 24 hours a day, it’s almost certain I will not see all things of relevance, if any.
Fame, back in the day, was only for the exclusive few. Now it’s for anyone – people can attract attention in an instant, often by posting their unhappiness or latest emergency, and often in a thinly veiled, “I don’t want to talk about it but I really do” way, and worse still, waiting and watching excruciatingly, counting the milliseconds as they will the Facebook ‘like’ to light up.
Now imagine this scenario – and it’s possible – that NO ONE likes it or comments, not because of what they think, or because they aren’t interested – but simply because they didn’t see it. Imagine what the person who made the post would perceive that to mean, when in reality, it is saying NOTHING. Unhealthy to say the least as I’m sure you would agree. Clearly many people, in incredible numbers, are not built for such fame and attention and are going to be damaged in one way or another.
I tasted fame on a grand scale very quickly back in the 80s and it was unnerving to say the least, so I have a rough idea what I am talking about. Did I become a valued and respected human being overnight because of my massive record sales or appearances in magazines, TV and radio? No, I think not, but that is how it can appear.
If I based my self-esteem on my fame and record sales, then the speed at which they both rapidly disappeared would leave me devalued and back to the apparent ‘nothing’ that I was before. Of course, neither scenario is true and any sensible well-rounded human would agree… but for the young who are not so ‘aware’, this is a very dangerous game.
Of course, I WANT more record sales, Facebook likes etc., but I don’t NEED them to have value and self-worth. This is the crux of it.
For every “Most Fanciable” award I got in the past, I received the “Most Annoying” as well, often at the same ceremony. That tells you everything you need to know and, as I said before, neither is true.
Ridiculous amounts of Twitter followers and Facebook likes have seemingly contributed in no small way to the arrival of the current President of the United States, and we can all see how that is going.
Instant gratification of this nature rarely ends well. In this last week, there have been cries for American TV Queen, Oprah Winfrey to run for President at the next USA elections based on one speech. Heartfelt, yes, but ONE speech that she made at this year’s Golden Globes. This is how far we have come. World news corporations including the BBC are using Twitter and Facebook stats as news and as a measure of popular opinion. We are dicing with death here.
We adults all know… well, I like to hope we do… that our real value can be measured by being a good father, partner, brother, son, friend, colleague and so on. And all of these life jobs are based on the fact that we make our best contribution by sometimes saying the difficult things, making us UNPOPULAR for a time and UNLIKED. This is often where our real value lies. Do we tell our young people this often enough? Almost certainly not, so let’s make it our mission to do so more in the future.
Remember, we may WANT more Facebook likes and approval but we most certainly do not NEED them. If we continue to Photoshop our pictures to death and edit our posts to get more likes and the illusion of approval, regardless of how far removed they become of the ‘real us’ then believe me, no one will win in the long term, and universal self-esteem disappointment awaits for all. Let’s try and avoid this.
This piece is written with the presumption and assumption that what I think is important, or that anyone even cares. Believe me, I will not hang my hat on the amount of likes it gets when it’s finally posted, and it will, for it is all an illusion, that somehow becomes ‘real’, or appears to be.
And, as someone more learned than me once said, be careful what you wish for… it might just happen!
Owen Paul, 2018
New single ‘Amazing’ is out now. Keep up-to-date with Owen on his official website www.theowenpaul.com