Recently, I read an article in the New York Times, that brings up an aspect of many social media interfaces, the like button. Many of us may be so used to the existence of this like button that we do not think about the negative effects it may have. When posting on social media, the number of likes a post gets is the main way we gauge the popularity or approval of our posts. But with the growth of social media, our online selves may become an extension of our real selves. Does this mean that your level of online social popularity could lead to real feelings of approval and disapproval?
The article looks into the psychology behind this approval. Matthew Lieberman, a Psychology professor at UCLA, said that “what social media exacerbates is the satisfaction of feeling part of a group, and the pain associated with feeling excluded from a group.” This is how social media use can be related to addiction. Everyone wants to be liked, and social media provides an outlet for feeling this approval. But it also has a “negative association”. Getting too few likes not only makes users feel bad, it leads them to post more frequently to get the approval they crave.
I don’t post on social media that frequently, but when I do, I definitely fall prey to approval, constantly checking for number of likes. I’ve also experienced my friends asking me to go like their posts so that they appear more popular on their newsfeed. Is this social media anxiety affecting real life, as people “gauge their self-worth by the number of likes, favorites, retweets”? If so, should we be doing something about it, or is this simply a phase that users go through before separating social media approval from real feelings of acceptance?
For most people, I think this will just be a phase that they go through in their peak years of social media use. However, for those growing up in the age of social media (maybe those born after 2000?), the social media approval may be something that they are too used to relying on.