We’ve all done it. We’re all guilty. We’re scrolling through our feeds on various social media platforms dishing out “likes” left and right. You were probably scrolling through your feed when you came across this blog! In which case I’m glad you decided to read further and hopefully clicked “Like”! (Feel free to click “Share” too while you’re at it 🙂 ) But what do you after you “Like” that post? Most of us simply keep scrolling. More photos of puppies, babies, engagement announcements, whatever someone is eating, drinks clinking, posts about politics, people trying to sell you stuff, etc. You name it, people post about it. And because we want to be a good “friend” we “Like” it. Then we continue to mindlessly scroll.
So what happens after we click “Like” and then take a hike? Real connection starts to crumble.
We all know the feeling that strikes when your phone illuminates with a notification: “@johndoe1 liked your post!” There is a sense of validation, praise, and support that comes with this “Like”. But how well do you even know @johndoe1? Is he an old friend from high school you only think about when social media reminds you about his birthday? Is he your aunt’s friend’s husband you met one time and he decided to add you as a “friend”? Do you now feel like @johndoe1 understands you more or knows how you feel because he “liked” your post? Chances are the answer is probably no.
Clicking “Like” fulfills a sense of accomplishment or makes us feel like we are actually doing something. We let our “friends” know we are excited about their new job announcement by clicking “Like”. We might even go so far as to comment below: “Congrats! So happy for you!” Then what do we do? Keep scrolling…Why do we stop the conversation after liking or commenting on a post or photo?
There is a term called slacktivism that David B. Feldman, Ph.D. describes as “the taking of an easy ‘token’ action in support of a cause, even though it may actually do no real good.” Because we have “liked” a post it feels like we have made the effort. We feel like we supported that “friend”, we encouraged or agreed with them. But did you really? How can we attribute such large feelings of accomplishment with one tiny click of the word “Like”. Feldman’s study indicated that after clicking “Like” “we may actually be less likely to take more effective action.” While social media posts are beneficial for spreading news quickly and increasing awareness, liking and commenting on these stories are just “substitutes for real action.”
Put differently, clicking “Like” helps us to feel good about ourselves and confident that we are appearing to be a good friend. Unfortunately, that can result in less need to take more substantial action. Hence, why we just continue scrolling.
Why do we pump the breaks at this point? Why have we stopped reaching out to these “friends” on a more personal level? How hard is it to close that app on your phone that you’ve been scrolling through and call or video chat with that friend who just posted about buying their first home? Saying “Congratulations!” with a big smile and happy tone is a better way to share this excitement with a friend. You cannot convey this same level of connection and affection with a simple “Like” or comment. How meaningful would that be to have a friend reach out in such a more personal way?
I envy my parents who still receive dozens of birthday cards in the mail each year. Someone actually took the time to buy a stamp–at this place called a post office–stuff an envelope, seal it shut, and knew their home address to send them an actual card in the mail! They have an arrangement of cards on the table displaying these real, personal connections with the ones they love. The jealousy I felt with the birthday cards made me realize that I have been depriving my friends of this type of relational connection. I have even succumbed to typing “HBD” on a friend’s profile instead of typing out 9 more letters to spell out: “Happy Birthday!” I can do so much better than that. We all can.
The birthday card is just one example of how overindulgence in social media can hinder true, personal connections with others. Licensed professional counselor, Jennifer L. Cline, indicates that “meaningful interpersonal connections are important to our psychological health.” When we ditch the face to face conversations and choose to connect with others online this allows us to avoid all the stickiness, difficulties, and awkwardness that can accompany real relationships. But real life relationships are sticky. They can be difficult, awkward, and challenging. Our friends and family are not always available, or positive, or agreeable. Online relationships are “less risky and require less giving of oneself.” No wonder it’s so much easier to click “Like” and keep scrolling.
But on the flip side we know that these low risk relationships typically result in low reward relationships. We need true, meaningful, personal connections with others instead of these one-dimensional relationships we create online.
I’m not trying to tell you that clicking “Like” is a bad thing. Please continue to “Like” your friend’s and family’s posts. But don’t stop there! Take a break from the scroll and go one step further. Use the call function on your phone and follow-up about the post. Ask for details, gather more information, connect with this person. My challenge for each of you is to go beyond the “Like” button and nurture your personal relationships that so desperately need to be nurtured.
So, next time you see a post that your friend recently lost a family member feel free to click “Like”, but then do more. Send them a sympathy card, call them and inquire about the funeral arrangements, and share with them if you have ever experienced a similar loss.
If you see someone post about a political stance you agree with, click “Like”, then do something. Write a letter to your government officials in support of this topic. Participate in a rally. At the very least, call or text your friend with an encouraging message: “I am with you. I agree with you. I support and love you.” No “Like” button could ever imitate such a connection.
Your co-worker is raising money for a cause close to their heart. You applaud their fundraising efforts by clicking “Like” and sharing the post on your personal page. Go one step further. Support this charity or cause by donating, volunteer for their event, attend the walk/run/5k or whatever they are hosting.
Be a real friend, in real life, by really connecting with others.
There is no substitute for meaningful, interpersonal connection. Even though social media attempts to fulfill this need, online relationships don’t compare. They give us the illusion of a satisfying connection with others without some of the risks that accompany real relationships. We have to be supportive, dependable, and present to not only improve our friendships, but to enhance and strengthen all of our personal relationships.
Don’t let clicking “Like” crumble connections with your relationships. Try some of these suggestions for connection or share with me some of your own ideas for fostering friendships and relationships!
If you need more support for refining or increasing the happiness in your own relationships come on in for a session with me. I’m happy to help with real relationship revamping!