By Katie Schumacher – Online Behavior Expert, Author, and Founder of Don’t Press Send
One of the most common traits of social media is the allure of the “like” button. I compare it to validation based on the concept of the hamster wheel. Children and adults post a picture or a comment seeking a response from their peers. If they get little or no “likes,” the wheel turns slower, leaving them feeling invalidated and unfulfilled. If they receive many “likes,” the hamster wheel speeds up, triggering a good feeling of being acknowledged. For every subsequent post, they expect their hamster wheel to spin at a rapid, fulfilling pace. If the post doesn’t garner numerous “likes,” they are disappointed, no matter how meaningful the post is to them.
This generation of children grew up with a great deal of affirmation, being praised for their efforts, their participation, and their successes. While support is important, it is a sign of maturity to understand that we will not always receive encouragement from outside sources, even when we deserve it. It is our job, as parents and educators, to help our children develop an inner source of affirmation for their own accomplishments. Unfortunately, social media often works against this ideal. Today’s child needs to be aware of this hamster wheel of affirmation and fight the external need for validation. This is not easy, but is greatly beneficial in the long run. Fostering that internal sense of pride will lead to greater self-confidence and fulfillment.
Children have always relied heavily on the opinion of peers, overvaluing popularity in ways that takes precedence over their own personal needs and desires. In order for minors to keep from undermining their self-confidence, keep in mind a few things to understand why a friend might not “like” a recent post:
- They did not see it. Others are not online at the time as you, offsetting the algorithms that sync friends’ posts.
- It hit a nerve. The post gave them an uncomfortable feeling (jealousy, anger, anxiety, insecurity, etc.).
- It did not grab their attention. The person may be skimming through all posts so quickly that they did not notice it.
- They were not in the mood to react to your post.
Try to be a reflective person before you post anything and ask yourself these questions:
- Is this something I should share?
- Is this something that shows me in a positive light?
- Will this make me feel good even if I do not get many “likes?”
- Am I being respectful of others with this post?
- Am I boasting, or posting?
In the same respect, you must also be mindful and ask yourself these questions before you press “like” on other people’s posts:
- Is this something I support? Even though you didn’t write it, if you “like” it, you are supporting it.
- Will it leave me with a good feeling or a bad feeling if I “like” it?
- Am I “liking” this post to fit in? Strengthen your confidence muscle by staying true to who you are and what you believe in.
- Is this post unkind? Could this publicly humiliate someone? It never feels good to hurt someone. It is a confidence crusher.
- Can I think of a nice comment to write? If so, post it and “like” it. It will make you feel good to compliment or encourage someone.
It is not easy for today’s children to effectively navigate social media sites. I suggest you read my book, “Don’t Press Send: A Mindful Approach to Social Media, An Education in Cyber Civics” available on Amazon. This book will provide you with countless solutions to curtail the misuse of social media and help create and kinder and safer cyber community for all.