Recently a study was released that took a look at the effects of social media use and social media validation on an individual’s self-worth and sense of purpose and meaning.
The study consisted of two different parts and had as its participants a group of undergraduate university students. The first part divided students into two groups: one that could not use Facebook for 48 hours and one group that could. The second part of the study again divided into two groups: one that was rigged to receive a lot of positive feedback on their status updates and posts, and one group that was rigged to receive absolutely no comments or likes.
Participants were then evaluated to see how the different situations affected their sense of belonging, self-worth, and meaning.
It shouldn’t be surprising to anyone what some of the results of the study were.
The group that was unable to use social media as a means to self-expression felt a greater disconnect, loneliness, and lack of worth and meaning as compared to those that did use Facebook. Likewise, those that received no feedback on their posts felt “invisible” and suffered from the same disconnect and loneliness as the group that couldn’t write or post at all.
This topic is of particular interest to me. It’s probably safe to say that very few of us, if any at all, are immune to the effects of social media use and the validation (or lack thereof) that can come from it. Mara and I can certainly feel it. On days when comments are low, it is of course easy to wonder if the topic wasn’t engaging, if what we offered was not valuable, or if people even care. Even if those thoughts are fleeting, they still make an appearance.
It can be even more difficult for an individual when they confuse the rejection of whatever thing they shared with a rejection of them and their value as a human being.
This is all too common. Even when social media is not a factor, it does not take too much looking around (or inside) to discover that far too many people base their worth on things outside of themselves. This is why a key message of this blog (and the first thing we teach every time we get to speak somewhere) is about the importance of finding and establishing worth from the inside out, instead of from the outside in.
No matter how convincing the world’s message may be that your value as a human being is dependent on what other people think of you, or what the circumstances of your life may be, or what kind of personal decisions you’ve made in the past….it just isn’t true. But it takes work to rid yourself of those deeply ingrained beliefs. I’m still working on that myself, and probably will be for some time to come.
In political studies, you learn of the idea of certain inalienable rights (life, liberty, pursuit of happiness). They are inalienable, argued the founding fathers, because they do not come from any outside source. They are not originally possessed by any government to give out or take away…they are INHERENT in every human being. Simply by existing, they believed, you have a right to certain things as endowed by your Creator.
The same could be said of the inherent worth and value of a human being. My experience has been that as much as I was tempted to build my worth on external things (how someone treated me, whether or not I had friends, and if I had them how good they were to me, what job I had, how much money I had, etc.) that all those things may fail in the end, but my worth can remain intact. That’s a hard lesson to learn, but it is the most important one.
What are some situations that you find difficult in regards to social media? What lies about yourself might you be accepting as truth that makes this situation so painful? Will you join us in remembering to not have your worth connected to social media whatsoever?