Sharing = caring, and we might be caring a little too much


In our previous blog, we've discussed some early life events and personality traits that might make you more susceptible to developing a fear of failure. This time, we'll be talking about a much more recently developed source of self-doubt. 

The emergence of social networks (all the way back in 1999 with platforms like LiveJournal and SixDegrees) has provided people all around the world with an opportunity to share information about themselves and get to know people from across the country, and eventually, the globe. These social networks have grown and developed enormously since 1999, and studies suggest that a whopping 88% of 18- to 29-year-olds in the U.S. indicate using some form of social media. Networks such as Facebook (2004), and Instagram (2010) have evolved to allow its users to share as much information about themselves as they would like (or not). Photos, videos, locations, activities and even feelings can be shared, in addition to the more recent 2016 feature of being able to live stream what you're doing through Facebook. And we, being the social and curious creatures that we are, have thrown ourselves at this plethora of information like there's no tomorrow. We want to know how others are doing, ánd we want to show the rest of the world how wé are doing, and that's where the situation gets interesting.

Because we don't want to just show the world how we're doing. We want to show the world how well we're doing. Photos are edited, stories embellished and scenes are directed. And all of that is completely understandable. Societies (not just human ones) revolve around its members' social status and we, as members of the human society, want to be found important, interesting and worth paying attention to. 

What we often do not realise, however, is that other members of the online society do the exact same thing. They, too, want to be seen the coolest, prettiest and most interesting they could possibly be. And this is precisely where social media starts to pose a serious source of self-doubt. The content posted on social networks by other users is often carefully moderated and produced, and yet that is the only thing we see. Whereas we know exactly how mundane and glamour-less our own lives are in reality, the only snapshots we are presented with from others' lives are exciting and vibrant. If their lives are so cool and interesting, then what are we doing wrong? Why are we not having all that fun? 

Whenever you feel this type of question popping up in your mind, just remember that everyone is trying to impress, and that you aren't failing at 'getting the most out of your life' or being the most popular and cool person in your network. Take these snapshots of other people's lives with a grain of salt and focus on enjoying what you do instead. 
Social networks might be a deceiving place, but because they are built around sharing information, they might instead be used to break through this bubble of delusion! 

As was announced in the very first blog of this month, our GEMH Lab has started a 'social media honesty' campaign surrounding failures. Every Friday we post a failure on Twitter and/or Facebook using #FailFridays. We hope that by doing this, people will realise that everyone fails every once in a while, and that these experiences are universal and nothing to be ashamed of. Want to try it out yourself? Discuss doing the same with your friends for a week or so, or join in on our collection of fails by sharing some of your own on #FailFridays! (Don't forget to tag us @GEMH_lab!)


Nastasia Griffioen
Chief Scientific Officer

Nerd, is fascinated by the brain even more than your average zombie, into etymology and reading, drawn to anything tech-related, especially artificial intelligence. Wants to explore social tech (such as social media) and how these relate to young people's wellbeing.


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