Validation in a world of social media

A few years ago I decided to embark on a little experiment. The experiment was meant to last for an entire month where I promised to delete Facebook and Twitter from my phone and not post anything on Instagram. 

See, back then I was obsessed. All these stories we read of people becoming addicted to social media had become my reality. It was a reality I could no longer deny as it was starting to affect my daily life. My productivity was suffering at work and at home, I was barely adulting. 

The first few days were an absolute misery, I constantly found myself reaching for my phone only to put it back in my pocket. But something wonderful happened. It gave me time to reflect and I was left wondering, “What value does social media bring to my life?”. 

What do I get out of checking my feed first thing in the morning? Why do I feel obligated to post pictures and updates on my life as I go through my day? What’s the purpose? What could possibly be gained by posting every aspect of my life on social media? 

To an extent, social media did offer me the opportunity to engage and connect with people I would otherwise not have known. It also afforded me a lot of exposure to an international community with differing perspectives and standpoints. The thing is, asking all these questions left me with a disconcerting answer:  above all else, I was really just looking for validation. 

It’s natural to seek affirmation and as humans we all do it. I mean who doesn’t want to know that they are enough; that they’re doing a good job, that they’re attractive or that they’re fun to be around. But in our world of hyper-connectivity this takes on a whole new form, and for some, it’s no longer something sought from loved ones, but from strangers online. And this can be unhealthy because social media isn’t real life. It’s superficial. It gives the people who don’t matter power over your self-worth. 

“If you’re not enough without another like, you’ll never be enough with it.”

I’m ever so grateful for having realized this. It gave me a chance to change and truly accept myself. And so, what was intended to be a month-long experiment turned into a two-year quest of self-discovery. 

So far the journey has changed my life. Refraining from constantly posting to social media taught me to once again appreciate life for what it is. No longer do I have to do things based on how it will be received on social media. Something as simple as going to the beach doesn’t have to be predicated on the Instagram post. Nor do I need to hold off on an amazing meal because I need to edit and post it first. For a change, I do the things I do now because I genuinely want to. 

But more than anything it has given me the opportunity to be present. To be there for the people that do matter and to take a genuine interest in our conversation and connection. And In return, I have received an abundance of love and affirmation social media never could provide. Self-love is something that comes from within, but ultimately, I have come to realize that without the love of those around me, I never would have had the courage to find it. And what’s wonderful about self-love is it frees you from seeking validation, because you’ll already have it within you.  

I’d encourage others to embark on this journey too. If we could all just ask ourselves these questions. Why am I posting this? Am I posting to encourage or empower? Or am I posting because I seek attention or validation? If the answer is yes then perhaps its time to take a step back from social media. You too are deserving of self-love, and your life is destined to be lived. No one can offer you true validation except yourself.