Facebook is not a quantifier of personal value, and a ‘like’ is not a trustworthy indication of worth



Youth, they say, is wasted on the young.

I don't quite know what that means, but as I understand it, 30 years from now, I am to look back on photographs of myself and think, I used to be really good-looking. I think look rubbish now. Basically, one is forever doomed to search through the past in pursuit of some intangible Golden Age, when all is clean and beautiful.

I'm not convinced I am living in a Golden Age now. My tendency for overthinking and self-doubt rule out that possibility. I am conscious of how I look, magnifying small faults with excessive and unnecessarily sharp focus.

I feel intimidated by people with spotless skin, I feel my cheeks prickle with tightness if they stand too close to my face, close enough to observe my blemishes and imperfections.

This heightened awareness of my appearance leads me to disguise my subsequent lapses of self-esteem with a counterfeit demeanour of jovial witticisms. I use big words and smile at every syllable, through the act of seeming clever thus becoming clever.

Perhaps this habit of exhibitionism is a product of my generation. Our lives today have been offered a digital podium upon which they may be instantly evaluated.

Twitter and Facebook showcase every achievement and experience, every sunlit photograph and video upload. At the risk of manufactured falsity, our lives are presented to an audience of friends who can validate us with a 'like' or 'share' – naturally we want the best possible version of ourselves to be seen.

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But these achievements are presented without context, so all we see is the marvellous, the finished product, and none of the hours of work that went into it. What we see is the golden happy photo of the trip to Spain/Greece/Mallorca, not the costs of the airfare.

Apart from the value of the lasting memories one gains from these holidays and adventures, there is a form of reimbursement earned by the attention they attract on social media. The comments and reactions earned by your activity are a happy echo of the experience itself, your own positive response reciprocated by a digital audience.

However, these various displays of success can inspire the feelings of envy otherwise diagnosed as the 21st Century phenomena known as FOMO (fear of missing out).

You want what others have, absolutely, and that brief shining moment captured on Instragram is so blinding as to overshadow the dull yet unshakeable reality that one cannot always be on holiday.

To borrow from Theodor Adorno's school of thinking, social media offers the illusion that one can, by sharing their personal perspective, fashion their own individuality.

Yet if this campaign to be an individual is undertaken by everyone else, one unwittingly facilitates their own homogenisation. They become one and the same, like everyone else. Such is the danger of social media, for it is a mirror whose reflection you have the power to personally adjust.

Facebook is not a quantifier of personal value, and a 'like' is not a trustworthy indication of worth. But, oh, it does feel good when you earn that attention – when all eyes are on you, when the supportive comments pile up.

You feel as though you are able to offer something of worth, its influence far-reaching and wonderful.

Saying this, it is necessary here to exempt myself from accusations of hypocrisy by admitting that I am certainly guilty of seeking validation online. I think of how I can transform my observations into meaningful status updates; I carefully select the photos I upload; I edit my input to ensure an absence of the superfluous.

I present that which I hope shall seize attention and enhance my personal profile – and I readily confess to this because I believe I can absolve myself in the knowledge that I am simply doing as others do.