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The Psychology of “Like, Share & Comment”

Why is social networking so popular? Sure, it helps you keep in touch with your friends, family, and that creepy person who met you the other day for less than a minute. But is that the underlying truth behind its success?

Being that we are a social animal, there is an innate necessity within us that we need to constantly fulfill – the need to validate ones self. Self-affirmation is a primordial quality weakness in human beings, something that social networking has brought to the fore. We all now have a way to display our true inner selves on a platform that is seen by everyone near and dear to us. We talk about our lives incessantly – what we eat, what we wear, what we saw, whom we are with, why we care about something, when we sleep, who we love, and on and on and on (Strangers waiting, up and down the boulevard…). What is our objective in this endeavor? To gain a reaction from others. We want people to sit up and take notice. How do we fuel that longing for attention? Enter the “Like” button. I am a victim/proponent too. I post a picture from a concert I have recently been to, with a crafted tag line, and sit by my computer, waiting for people to comment on or like it. It gives me immense satisfaction that people appreciate the humor/sarcasm/imagery/etc.

It’s the same with blogging or twitter or any other social platform. The web has facilitated and fueled everyone’s inner desire to gain acknowledgment through social interaction. This has allowed each and everyone one of us to become a super star; an actor in our very own play we call life.

What is even more interesting is the manner in which it has transformed personalities from the real world to the virtual world. Social dynamics of the past are thwarted, with bullies and nerds sharing the same social space, able to express themselves in ways they never could in the real world. Often times, in reality, for various reasons, people do not get to truly express themselves. They are burdened by social constraints, and they get bracketed into stereotypes. Social networks have obliterated this notion. Due to the masses present, networks allow for like-minded individuals to sync up and share points of view that are relevant to them. Communities pop up with various interests, some so bizarre as to warrant me not mentioning them. But nonetheless, it has provided an outlet.

Don’t get me wrong. It is perfectly natural to want to gain acceptance among the fellow man and woman. Social networking has solved that problem. However, it has multiplied our need for affirmations and validation several fold. We seek it. We desire it. We can’t live (at least on the virtual front) without it. We desire more likes, shares and comments. We want to voice our opinions, our tastes, our activities, our passions, and even our most private, personal emotions, so that we gain some kind of feedback, some acknowledgement, some sympathy, some compassion.. something, some anything…

Come to think of it, even without the internet, our lives were, at some point, all about gaining acceptance in society. Right from childhood, you are trying to fit in to some kind of construct. As you grow, your life is shaped by the choices you make and the personality you exhibit (whether it truly reflects you or not). You go down that path almost forcefully and mechanically, till you realize that you have to do it again as an adult. Be it at work or at a party, you need to be a certain way to fit into conversations and be part of some circle. Everything you do is a direct impact of your desire to be in a circle, or to gain acceptance into some circle.
The goal should be for us as individuals to acknowledge that we crave this affirmation, and accept it as part of who we are. That in itself would give context as to why we do the things we do. By all means, share that photo of your recent lunch, but understand the reason behind why you do it. Ouch, this is sounding a bit preachy. I’ll stop here.


5 responses

  1. Well written, although i don’t quite believe it has obliterated the stereotypes.. in fact it has created a need for many to mimic personalities and crave social attention by not quite being their genuine selves but hiding behind those of others. But I agree that the reason behind the action is the need for validation, for acceptance or just a sense of importance or recognition.

    September 23, 2012 at 6:55 pm

  2. jairaj

    Well written and analysed Avi. Agree with most of it

    September 23, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    • roddam

      Thanks Pop!

      September 23, 2012 at 10:01 pm

  3. Lata Roddam

    Well written Ral!

    September 24, 2012 at 8:54 pm

  4. Justification, Well written Bob!

    September 26, 2012 at 10:07 am

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