When I was very young and somebody asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I would tell them I wanted to be a lawyer. Then they told me that required lots of hard work and studying so I changed my mind and pursued the dream of being a writer.
I was asked the same question again when I saw my first psychologist (two years ago). My reply was simple; Actor or Writer. When she asked me if I could see myself doing anything else I replied with “I wouldn’t be happy though.” At the time I thought nothing of it but a few weeks later we had been talking more and more and she had come up with the suggestion that perhaps I find myself wanting the validation of other people more than I want the validation from myself. It was an interesting thought although I didn’t dwell on it for very long at the time. I had spent too many years wanting to be a writer or a journalist to just let that dream die.
It wasn’t until last week when I watched a viral video circulating the internet that I realised just how right she might be. The video explains about the current generation and their social media addiction. Now, I don’t believe myself to have an addiction to social media. I will quite happily leave my phone in my room while I go downstairs to watch TV. I turn the phone off when I’m at work and don’t have it with me at all. I can play games for hours on end and forget to check social media for a long time. That is, however, unless I’ve done something.
By “done something” this isn’t even specific. I could have updated my Facebook status or sent a tweet on Twitter, hell even when I share a blog post I find myself becoming slightly addicted to social media. I didn’t know why this was, I thought it was just because I wanted somebody to like and share my thoughts and ideas, turns out I was a little off the mark.
The reason my social media addiction flares up then is because the brain releases dopamine when people like, share or favourite your things. I will lunge for my phone every time it makes a noise if I think somebody might have subscribed to my blog or liked something I posted on twitter.
It’s probably not news to most people who don’t “chase the likes” because they are removed from the situation and can watch it from the outside. For people like me, we don’t even realise we’re doing it. We argue with friends when they don’t like or share a status or something. Because, to us, it means you don’t value me and I get my validation from what you think of me. I become addicted to that feeling when I see my work shared and liked or commented on. It’s an amazing feeling that actually shoots my happiness way up the charts. However, like any addict, my mood crashes when I don’t get my “hit”. When I don’t get the likes I want or the shares I expect, my mood crashes and I get depressed. These are some of the times it hits the hardest as well because I feel worthless and devalued.
The problem? I don’t know how to not “chase the likes” because it’s all I’ve ever really known. My personality was formed around social media and the internet. It is pounded into us daily that the more followers you have on Twitter the better you are. Viral videos make people celebrities. Overnight fame is achievable. It may be fickle but it’s achievable much more than it was for previous generations.
But this doesn’t help depression. When YouTubers hit a million subscribers, when vloggers get invited to television shows, this just hammers home that I’m not good enough for this world. There is a female YouTuber named Zoella who a lot of people assume I hate. I don’t hate her. I hate her celebrity status? Why? Jealousy. I need the validation that she is getting from other people. I need that following to feel worthwhile in life. It sounds sad to actually read the words back but I can’t argue with how my body reacts to things. For the record, I don’t hate Zoella. Like all YouTubers I claim to “hate” or even “dislike” it’s just jealousy. You have something I want and I’m eternally chasing the validation you get on a daily basis.
I don’t particularly even have a solution here. I’m not going cold turkey from social media because my whole life is built around social media. In my spare time I’m on YouTube. I connect with my friends through Facebook. I check my Twitter when on my break at work. I can’t cold turkey it but I do have to admit I’m an addict for the likes. I don’t know how to not crave that validation or how to find the validation within myself. I just don’t know how to do it.
I’m sorry this is another blog post that doesn’t end happily, but it’s sort of life at the moment. They say the first step is admitting that you have a problem and so please consider this my admission. However, without help, I don’t know how to quit. But, as far as I know, they don’t make chewing gum or patches for quitting others validation.