A few months, ago a close friend shared on Facebook an article by a fellow HuffPost blogger known for her bold and controversial posts. Titled Getting Married Is Not An Accomplishment, it sparked thought-provoking discussions, unravelling views from all angles.
Like a moth to a flame, I was there hammering at the keyboard, commenting away on her simple message:
"Marriage is not an accomplishment - you don't have to do any actual real work to get married."
As it turns out, the response to the blogger's viewpoints spiralled out of control landing her on television and battling with the ferocious Twitter storms! Much to her surprise, people had an issue with what she was saying.
The aftermath was a catalyst for another post, where she clarified that happiness is an achievement, and happiness is something that often comes hand in hand with getting married.
"We found happiness with each other. And that is indeed one of my achievements."
But is happiness an accomplishment?
Now, to be transparent, these blog posts do not fully mirror my thoughts, but I do agree that a marriage resulting in happiness is a wonderful thing and is undoubtedly an achievement, but simply getting married is not an accomplishment.
Nevertheless in my circles, social media posts about marriage and engagements do indeed get more likes and shares than say someone sharing an article they have published, climbing to the top of a mountain, or a status explaining nailing that job promotion. This is also a fact - evidence shows content that engages readers' emotions is more likely to be shared.
Does romance really trigger a more powerful response than other areas of our lives? Certainly liking an announcement can simply be a way of wishing people well, but why not care as much about announcements in other aspects of life?
Image CC0: Fancycrave
Undoubtedly culture, society and media affect the way we think and form opinions, and this certainly impacts the way we may respond on social media. Are there certain things that are much more of a focus for women - like getting married as an example? I think it boils down to a mixture of culture, society and the historic lack of female role models in high places.
This is changing, albeit gradually, with increasing numbers of prominent female politicians and business leaders across the globe - married and unmarried. But in spite of this, the current figures speak for themselves; for example, as of Sept 2016 there were only ten female CEOs in the top 250 UK companies (FTSE250). Similar statistics can also be seen at the top of the food chain across science, publishing and in the media.
My married friend posted to Facebook:
"I certainly don't feel that the married women I know are more accomplished for being married, so why do I give so much more value and attention to someone getting engaged than someone completing a degree/PhD/pgce or getting a new job or achieving something at work or something creative that they've been working hard at. I love celebrating an engagement or marriage but I need to realise there's so much more to women's goals and achievements and be just as over the moon about anything that makes the women I know happy and proud!"
But are we judging the number of likes or favourites an announcement gets on social media as a correlation to accomplishment / success / achievement?
Are we less inclined to "like" something on Facebook perhaps more self-promotional, than say a beautiful engagement photo oozing happiness? After all, happiness is the main driver for social media sharing: emotions layered with and related to happiness make up the majority of the top drivers of viral content according to scientists.
So, could it be that our criteria for achievement and success on social media is all wrong? We understand "happy" but do we get accomplishment? We also know that the more positive content is, the more likely it was to be shared, as Jonah Berger explains in the book, "Contagious: Why Things Catch On."
This got me thinking: should Facebook add an "accomplishment " or "success" option? And would it ever get used?
But meanwhile, perhaps we should think more about what we encourage, like, share and support on social media. This does beg the question however, what does any of it really mean anyway? Does anyone really care? (I guess I can determine that by how many likes this gets!)