We all need connection. We want to be included, to be liked, to feel part of a community, connected with others, validated in our actions, life choices and who we are. But in this day and age of social media and the internet, are we really achieving that connection in the way we hoped for?

I’ve been wondering this a lot lately.

If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you’ll know I have as complicated a relationship with social media as I believe anyone does. I’m aware it’s not very good for me, whilst equally being unable to stop spending hours scrolling through it. Maybe it’s FOMO. Perhaps it’s simple boredom. But I think the biggest draw to social media, is that it feels like connection.

However something also feels really off

Because if its connection on a wider scale, reaching more people, shouldn’t it feel more comforting than it does? Shouldn’t I feel uplifted and happier each time I spend a little time there? When the opposite in fact, is very true.

Perhaps in part, it is this ever increasing need to portray the best snapshots of my life possible? Including witty, well considered and thought out captions. Ditching any photo or video that don’t feel totally on point.

I’m not sure where that pressure came from. Why I feel the need to create something perfect online. Nor how I’ve come to rely on an online world for my confirmation of what everyone’s lives are about, when it feels so knowingly manufactured and fake and yet so envy worthy to the point where it’s more often a negative space for me to rummage through, than a positive one.

Maybe this pressure we now have to share in a perfect way, is where the real issue lies in feeling a lack of connection on social media?

Does sharing in this way online create something good? I’m not sure. I think possibly not.

No longer do we feel able to share real things. Our posts must be polished to perfection. Filtered and carefully thought out. A hint of truth in there, mostly created for an envy worthy response. Whereas we used to post whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted to.

It used to be more fun, don’t you think? It used to feel more real. I know I used to post something sporadically because I wanted to. To hell with whether my hair was perfect or not. I didn’t used to spend hours creating a reel with accompanying caption, that in reality, only ten people are going to see. And yet now I do this. Hours of time lost in the dedication to the cause: creating something that some people are going to like online.

Am I seeking validation?

I don’t think I can argue that I’m not. Although, it sounds shit to say that’s why I’m likely doing it. But the thing is, what else is there to gain?

Likes are what I’m after. And those likes are social media’s expression of confirmation, affirmation, I am OKAY. Hurrah!

Trouble is, those good vibes only last a few minutes, until you remember that none of it is really ‘real’. 

Steven Hopper said it best in his article, ‘What Happens When We Stop Seeking Validation on Social Media’.

“Due to the increasing connectedness of the world, we’re not only starving for recognition in person, but our biggest happiness and satisfaction now lie in how many followers we have and how many “likes” we get.”

He goes on to state that social media has become an opportunity to showcase ourselves in the very best light, in order to feel validated.

This hit me hard when I read it. It appears a vicious cycle with no end

We are more connected via technology and so less connected in real life with one another. And so we use social media more to seek the connectedness we’re lacking in real life.

We portray our best selves online in order to widen the opportunity for likes and therefore validation, which converts into, ‘We’re doing okay,’ which sends us the message that we are connected with people as they like what we’re up too.

But then comes the inevitable shitty feelings. Where deep down we recognize that what we’re trying to gain from social media, doesn’t count emotionally or mentally half as much as it would in real life

And now we have less contact with people in real life, and so we turn back to social media as the seemingly easier way to gain a quick boost of the connections we’re lacking, before once again realizing that this never fucking works because something feels really off.

Yet we are persistent fuckers. Technology is good, right?

We want to be a part of that online community. Plus it’s trendy, cool, we can create pretty shit, gain a more instantaneous gratification from it. And so we become fixated on creating prettier and prettier online content.

Every post tells a story, and so we might consider each one in detail as it directly contributes to how we are perceived, which leads to using social media more so we feel more seen.

And yet, we are less seen as people than we’ve ever been before this time. Because none of it is really real.

Fuck, is there no way out!?

Well actually, I’m not going to say I’ve cracked it because I absolutely haven’t. Social media is an addictive little bastard, and I still haven’t managed to detox for more than 24 hours, or say goodbye to my socials completely.

Ironically, I also need them to promote this blog. And as sending messages via carrier pigeon is messy, expensive, and likely to reach a smaller audience than my very few current followers, I have no other choice but to use social media as a promotional tool.

So what’s my miracle answer to this negative social media cycle of doom?

It’s never going to be true connectedness. I’ve reminded myself of this often over the past year and made a conscious effort to spend more in person time with friends and family. I didn’t spend as much as I’d have liked, but I absolutely made headway.

Tell you what, spending a couple of hours with friends or family feels a damn sight better than a few hours doom scrolling on my phone that’s for sure.

Secondly, I limited how much I post online

I’ve saved so much god damn time not creating posts, or considering some interesting caption to go along with it. Trouble is, I haven’t limited what I post on my personal socials. It’s still pictures of my dogs and holidays. Which on the holidays front, one could argue is validation seeking of the highest form!

None of us are perfect alright.

However, I do keep in mind that when I’m spending time with friends, or travelling somewhere cool, what’s more important is the present moment I’m enjoying. It’s not about capturing the moment in a way that takes fifteen minutes and uses up valuable time I could be talking or laughing with friends, nor lost time to enjoy a city because I’ve spent half of it posing for pictures for the grid.

It’s a quick snap or two and then phone away. And that photo if taken, is for me and my future self. The one who wants to look back and remember the moment. Not for anyone else, just me.

My third promise to myself was to doom scroll less

Mornings post wake up and just before bed are the worst times for me. So I’ll either make a conscious effort now not to look at my socials at all. Or as soon as I’ve spent a few minutes there, I ask myself, Am I gaining anything from this? Or would I be better cracking on with some things I need to do, like walking the dogs?

Definitely progress here. I think social media has been an enabler for my tendencies to procrastinate over my day, rather than get the hell on with it.

And finally, the biggest one of all! I constantly remind myself that social media is more harmful than helpful

That most of what I’m seeing on my feed is a very human attempt to be connected to one another, and we are striving for this hard.

It might come across as showing off sometimes, and it might make me feel inadequate in the process but what we are all really seeking is affirmation that we are part of a community, that we are accepted within it, and we are just doing this in the only way we know how – by showing the best of what we are. Put simply, we are searching for confirmation that we are doing okay in life.

It might tantamount to chasing validation, but that’s because validation is a very natural human desire

Ditch social media, and we’ll still seek connectivity with people. We’ll still search to be included within a community whether it be friends, family or otherwise. We’ll still hope that people like us, and want to be liked. None of that changes.

But I think that makes the method we go about receiving it even more important to consider. I think reducing how much we rely on social media to provide it, can only be a good thing for us going forward. Because sure, social media feels like connection. However something also feels really off and it will never amount up to the connection we really seek in our lives: Authentic, real, live and in person.

By Amy Roullier
By Amy Roullier

Amy is the Founder and Editor of The Authentic Optimist. She talks all things life. From the highs to the lows, to all those messy bits in-between. She is a writer, rambler, lover of carbs (her true soulmate) and she is especially passionate about dispelling myths about women in their 30s. Amy lives in Lincolnshire with her two greyhounds.