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The days of throwing a sheep at someone are dead & buried.

January 9, 2012

For those of us on Facebook, I wonder if you go through the same sort of social craving (however big or small) I do. You post what you think is a clever status update, make a witty observation on a friend’s photo or share what you believe to be an link to an interesting – yet previously hidden – article on polar bears. The seconds & minutes go by & then, there it is. The notification comes in to say someone has ‘liked’ or – even better – commented on your action.

Oh, maybe it’s just me then.

But no, I don’t think it is. Judging by the sort of updates & comments I see each & every day on Facebook, it can’t be just me who gets some sort of thrill from someone else taking the time to acknowledge something you’ve said or done.

I used to worry that my updates were meaningless & weren’t of interest to any of my friends (I use the word ‘friends’ in the weakest of senses). But after months of seeing the most boring of status updates from others get multiple ‘likes’ & comments in reply, I grew in confidence & jumped fully onto the bandwagon that was social media. I have always tried to keep any updates, individual photo uploads & comments witty, insightful or interesting in some way but I guess everyone would say that wouldn’t they? I mean, no one willingly goes out their way to write what they know is a boring comment unless they have done so ironically.

It’s a strange phenomenon though. I believe, in some way, social media has replaced – or rather enhanced the thrill we get from – texting one another. Phone calls – much like face to face conversation – require certain social graces. Some find this interaction a little – or a lot – uncomfortable. I grew up without a mobile phone so got very comfortable speaking to friends over the phone but even I can recognise how it’s deemed more awkward to speak on the phone as opposed to text. For those who find it hard to express what they want to say out loud & live, it is of course much easier to type it out in a neat little message, deleting any mistakes you make along the way. If you want to convey some emotion, you throw in a few exclamation marks or smiley faces. It’s become quite an art form.

But social media cranked this up a few levels. Suddenly, you had the ability to publicise these texts to multiple friends at a time. Not only this, but your friends had quick & simple ways of giving you positive feedback in return (you will notice there’s no ‘dislike’ button on Facebook. If there was, I’m sure we would share half as many comments as we do today). And all for free. What a winning combination. And with nearly all of your friends & family on the same platform, Facebook has become a virtual world where everyone can digitally interact with each other. This, of course, is far better than actually physically interacting with each other face to face or on the phone as you are less likely to get embarrassed.

Add a competitive element to all these interactions & suddenly your digital interactions & perceived popularity can be tracked. Do you get a little jealous when you see certain friends getting many more likes & comments when they write status updates? Come on, be honest. Thankfully, I don’t get jealous of others in the social media world. Not just yet anyway. As I admitted earlier, I do crave the recognition of what I believe to be a clever status or a funny photo I’ve uploaded. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong or unnatural about that.

Link that back to normal life (yes, I still cling to the notion that normal life is NOT our online world), & it’s the equivalent of someone laughing at your joke, listening to your point at the dinner table or leaving you a note to say thanks. All these things we instinctively crave & enjoy intrinsically when they happen so why not crave & enjoy them online too? There’s nothing wrong with it. Believe me.

The world as we know it is being replicated – if not, replaced – online. Let’s recognise the similarities & go with the flow.


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