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Affirmation from Social Networks

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Affirmation from Social Networks How many of us have had a meal with someone you haven’t seen in forever and, as you are talking, your friend keeps checking their phone? I am going to say that many of us have been in this scenario and that, for most of us, it was pretty frustrating. On the other hand, what if you have been that friend? What are your motivations for constantly posting a selfie or refreshing your news feed or letting the world know where you are by checking in? I think that part of your reasoning might be that you are looking for affirmation. I propose that we have an addiction to affirmation and that society has a problem with getting their affirmation from social networks. People have been receiving affirmation for years. It can be and is what makes some people feel special. What is affirmation? Google defines it as emotional support or encouragement. Merriam Webster defines it as a positive assertion which is to say something that is true in a confident way. I think everyone in some form or fashion is looking for affirmation. Individuals in society have been seeking and receiving affirmation for years. If you are feeling depressed or just down your spirit can be lifted by words of affirmation that others have sent you. Many use social networks to receive their words of affirmation.
The term social networks covers a lot. It includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and so many more. Facebook was founded on February 4, 2004 and was first called thefacebook.com (Carlson, 2010). Facebook is a great place to reconnect with old friends and to keep up with family that might not live close by. It can be used to post status updates, pictures, and to check in. Twitter was born around 2006 with about 14 people developing it (@Dom, 2009). You have 140 characters to say your thoughts and then you hope for retweets to make your post big news. Instagram was established in October 2010 by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger and has rapidly gained popularity with over 100 million active users as of 2012 (Wikipedia, n.d.). It no longer requires talking to someone to share what you are doing or how you are feeling. We can use pictures to show our world to others. Being social is no longer just going out to visit friends or going to a dance or party. It is now happening all online. We stay in contact through texts and instant messaging. We now prefer 140 characters to actual contact with someone.
When people are online, how they portray themselves often does not reflect who they are in reality. Personal experience has shown me that one can appear to be very outgoing and talkative online when, in reality, they are a very shy person. We tend to create what we consider to be a better version of ourselves. Instagram, for instance, has become a world where people share selfies, pictures of their food and multiple sunsets. It is interesting to see the lengths some will go to get just the right photo. We post pictures where we have added a filter or that have been photoshopped, all in the hope of bettering our image. We are constantly in competition with others as if we are seeking to be the best online. We are constantly comparing ourselves to others. People are looking for love — or “likes” — in all the wrong places (Gilsdorf, 2014). The effects of not being “liked” or “shared” becomes the equivalent of not being asked to the big dance (Gilsdorf, 2014). And the fact that Gilsdorf is correct on so many accounts is scary. We tend to associate our popularity with how many likes, retweets, friends and followers we have online instead of paying attention to the friends we have around us in real life. As Feiler says, “It’s one thing for teenagers to gauge their self-worth by the number of likes, favorites, retweets or L.M.A.O.s, but when someone who ought to know better, like your boss, . . . starts to boast of reaching popularity milestones, it all begins to seem a bit, well, desperate” (Feiler, 2014). Facebook can often times become a competition about how many friends you have and how many likes your status received. You compare yourself to so many others that have many different circumstances than you. You find many people sharing their lives, checking in and letting everyone in on their business. We turn to the social networks to give us our ‘good’ feedback when we don’t receive feedback that makes us feel good in reality (Mohan, 2013). Why are we leaving what kind of affirmation we get up to the whims of those online? We often conjure up what people online are thinking of us to the extent that we make things up. We are developing a new normal of how we think people look at us. One reason that we constantly share, which results in oversharing, could be the seeking of fulfillment from the likes and comments that you receive on your posts. Research shows that those who are seeking fulfillment are very active on social media. Feiler talks about how he is often more inclined to reach for the likes instead of being authentic (Feiler, 2014). Why do many of us feel the need to wait with baited breath for a notification to pop up on our screen? Why do we allow our use of social networks to affect our emotions and our happiness (Berman, 2013)? We allow other’s perceptions of us to affect and change us. It affects us not only physically, but also emotionally. We try to conform to what we think others will like and accept. We tend to constantly hit the refresh button instead of setting our phone down and doing the things that really matter. Now I know most people will say that they aren’t looking for that stamp of approval when they post, but I think that many are looking for affirmation and don’t really realize it. For some, getting affirmation online might be the only way they receive any. If your family will have nothing to do with you and provides no declarations, the only way you might be able to get affirmation is online from your friends. For others, affirmation is how they feel loved. If you can’t get out of the house, like a new mother, the time spent online can be how they unwind. These new mothers are just wanting some connection to the outside world and not looking for anything else. If and when they do look for confirmation, they can really be using it in the right way. They can talk about what they are doing to make their baby feel better or they could just be asking for suggestions or affirmation that they have done the correct thing for their baby. If used in the right way affirmation from friends on social media can be a good thing for some. It would be an exaggeration to state that everyone is addicted to social profiles or that everyone is addicted to affirmation. Every person checking their social media is not necessarily waiting anxiously for notifications. Affirmation can be a good thing if used in the right way, but if some are not careful and cannot control this addiction, then they might lose so much more than they would have every thought was possible. If we don’t change our ways and keep looking for affirmation from social networks, then the next several generations won’t know how to truly get affirmation from real people.

Works Cited
@Dom. (2009, January 30). How Twitter Was Born. Retrieved from 140 Characters. Web. 6 Oct. 2014.
Berman, J. (2013, August 30). People Who Crave Approval More Likely To Be Active Facebook Users. Retrieved from Huffington Post. Web. 6 Oct. 2014.
Carlson, N. (2010, March 5). At Last -- The Full Story of How Facebook Was Founded. Retrieved from Business Insider. Web. 6 Oct. 2014.
Feiler, B. (2014, May 9). For The Love of Being 'Liked'. Retrieved from New York Times. Web. 6 Oct. 2014.
Gilsdorf, E. (2014, Febuary 3). Looking for 'Likes' In All The Wrong Place: On Social Media and Self-Worth. Retrieved from Cognoscenti. Web. 6 Oct. 2014
Mohan, G. (2013, March 22). Self-affirmation: Facebook may stoke envy but it also strokes your ego. Retrieved from LA Times. Web. 6 Oct. 2014
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Instagram. Retrieved from Wikipedia. Web. 6 Oct. 2014

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[ 1 ]. an image of oneself taken by oneself using a digital camera especially for posting on social networks. Definition from Merriam-Webster Dictionary.…...

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