"I just had the most romantic night ever!", "My kids are the best", "Vacationing in Paris", "I love my new job", "From single to engaged", "Trying to shed a few - On a new diet!"
What's the similarity between all these statements? The hunger for attention! This indirect method of showing off gives people a sense of self-satisfaction while they publicize how wonderful their lives are.
Today, we live in an era where it has become very socially acceptable to display one's life via social networks. The technology that was devised to meet the necessity for quick and efficient communication has been over-shadowed by the need to flaunt our lives, look important and boost our self-esteem.
While technology has had a profound impact on what it means to be social, the trouble with this aspect of social networking is that nearly everyone presents an unrealistic portrait of themselves. Consequently, this might have a negative psychological effect on their friends or followers who are likely to think other people's lives are happier and better. Many people are involved in an abundant number of relationships through technology, but sometimes the quantity of these associations leaves people feeling qualitatively empty.
So what are we doing with 3000 friends on the Internet when we don't even recall most of their names? Instead of spending time in person with friends, why do we prefer to call, text or instant message them? Now that we have more ways to document and share our lives through Facebook and Twitter, why do we get so involved that we miss out on enjoying that moment ourselves?
Since social networks provide the option to post statements, pictures and comments, we have amongst us Facebook celebrities who think their friends are their fans, and in some cases, paparazzi. Every time they update their airbrushed photos, they wait with bated breath to read comments such as: 'beautiful couple', 'gorgeous', 'you look so awesome', 'wow' and so on. Posting photos of their experiences influences the way people perceive them. Perhaps they want others to envision them as sophisticated, fashionable or content?
These celebrities also put up status updates every few hours and not necessarily some pearls of wisdom. It ranges from the type where they tell you what they are doing at the moment to random philosophical musings. Then there are individuals whose updates are simply complaints about their lives. So what do people actually get out of this?
The satisfaction comes about when their status gets acknowledged, or even better, 'approved'. Deep inside, they know that each time they update their status, their friends will get to see it and possibly react to it. Gradually, it becomes a conditioning process where the social icon gets rewarded with acknowledgement each time his or her status receives feedback from so-called 'friends'.
Checking-in is another practice that has become very popular due to the GPS services present in smart phones. It's as good as shouting out, "Please keep a tab on me!" This is quite ironical because if someone was physically stalking us in real life, it would give us the creeps. However, digital stalking has become socially acceptable.
This brings us back to the million dollar question: What satisfaction do people get when they tell others where they are and what they have been up to? Since actions speak louder than words, checking-in renders a sense of achievement and also reflects upon the personality of the individual based on his or her activities.
Humans possess the inescapable need to connect with others as well as feel accepted by them. However, in our haste to be popular, we tend to overlook the fine line between sharing of information and emotional exhibition. "Love you darling", "We need to talk", "Please forgive me" and "It's over!" does not need to be advertised on the 'Wall'. These conversations are better suited for a face to face encounter. And if this is not the kind of thing you would say to someone's face, it's all the more cowardly to say it online.
Sometimes, social networks can lead to etiquette degeneration since they allow us to freely exhibit our feelings or expressions without physically having to deal with the consequences. However, in case of real world situations, we are always directly or indirectly pressured to abide by the norm.
In a society where people have become quite mobile and family and friends are often geographically separated, it is convenient to maintain relationships through social networks. However, if we want to develop meaningful relationships, we need to start prizing the meaning of quality in our connections, not sheer quantity. Technology is not the problem. It's how we use it that results in alienating the people we interact with.
In our rush to record life, let's not forget to live it!