Social Networking: Beware the Validation Trap!

Upon receiving massive likes on a stupid non sequitur post on facebook, I am reminded how much empty validation can be derived from such things, and should be carefully navigated so as not to distract from our focus and detract from our lives.


In the old days, social networks were very simple.  You posted pictures of drunken debauchery, and sometimes people commented on them.  They served for little more than an outlet to show how crazy your weekends were.  It might be a surprise to some people that Facebook didn’t always have the “Like” button!

These days, social networking has evolved into a supercharged validation engine, with the twisted purpose of stroking your ego, one “like” at a time.  We have now solidified our stake in the 21st century, where “likes” are the currency of self esteem.  The problem is inflation is the new norm and wealth does not equal value.

Let’s look at the Goliath leading the pack in this feel good frenzy.


Facebook really has this down to a science nowadays.  Their website is based on algorithms, which calculate all the mishmash of things you liked over the course of time – from Christina Aguilera, to Wal-Mart, to the Philadelphia Phillies – in order to market you the newest spanish style hot dog (available only at Wal-Mart!)  It really is sophisticated!

But that’s not the point here.

Really, the bigger issue is that posting status which receive many “likes” leads us to feel good about ourselves.  Whether you like to admit it or not, this is a problem.

Now, I’m not saying that one shouldn’t feel good about themselves or that feeling good about getting many “likes” on a status is inherently wrong.  The problem is that the result of this concoction leads to pointless, frivolous postings and hours of wasted time all in the name of seeking validation.  After all, it feels good to have your ego stroked, so why wouldn’t you look for more?

Unfortunately, rarely does any of that count for anything.  Getting 100 likes on a Facebook post might feel good, but the validation you get is not the same as acing a test, nailing a performance, or finishing a project.  It’s far to common nowadays that I see people doing nothing but dicking around on Facebook.

I’ll take an example.  After months of training, I got my skydiving A-License last year.  This was a tremendous accomplishment for me.  The validation I felt just from getting this was extreme!  Of course, I wanted to share this with my friends, and I figured it might even motivate some people to come skydiving themselves, or perhaps do something they’ve been wanting to do.  The post garnered some attention, something like 30-40 “likes”.

Meanwhile, this past weekend, I was featured in the local newspaper for a sarcastic and funny comment I made when asked what my thoughts were on same sex marriage rights.  So I took a picture of the quote and posted it to facebook.  It got over 70 likes!

Sure, for a moment I felt good, but this actually frustrates the hell out of me!  Getting my skydiving license was much more respectable!  But really, that’s just the nature of Facebook.  People come there for entertainment.

Think about that next time you post something on Facebook.  Are you doing it just for ego validation?  Is there something else you should be doing instead?  Life will fly past you, and it’s the little decisions that count.  Ones like skipping 20 minutes of Facebook browsing in favor of working on your goals!


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