Proof That No One Really Cares About Our Social Media Posts
We are caught up in social media, especially the "likes." We shouldn't be.
Posted Mar 13, 2019
We sure like social media, don't we? Facebook alone has over 2 billion monthly active users, with a billion of those being daily active users. The average user spends about 35 minutes per day on Facebook. Just to give perspective, that's 350 billion minutes or about 66,000 years worth of human time spent per day... just on Facebook!
Probably most of us are using multiple social media platforms these days. Instagram, which was acquired by Facebook in 2012, has over 700 million active users, Twitter has 328 million, and Snapchat has 255 million. So, perhaps an aggregate amount of time we spend on social media these days is probably closer to 50-60 minutes per day, with many of us averaging well above that number.
A Few Caveats
What I mean by "proof" that your (and my!) social media posts don't really matter is that they don't matter significantly. We can all think of posts and social media connections that are meaningful and important. However, my contention is that, when we take our social media time investment as a whole, the time spent does not yield the return on investment that we are seeking.
So, it's not that social media has no value — it clearly does. However, given how much time we are spending on it and why, it is not providing the level of benefits that we truly desire.
For those of us out there who are using social media for business purposes, my "proof" is less applicable. I'm primarily talking about the social/recreational use of these social media platforms.
Why Do We Spend So Much Time on Social Media?
Most of us use social media as it is intended — to keep in touch with friends and family and provide a convenient way to let those folks know what we are up to. This is not so bad, right? A curious thing happens when we start using social media, though.
If you are similar to me and most people, it's easy to get caught up with what is going on in people's lives and letting them know what is going on in ours. In particular, we get hooked on the "likes." Snapchat doesn't include that feature (right now, thank goodness), but Facebook has it, as do Twitter and Instagram.
Just about all of us have "liked" others' social media posts, and we have posted comments or pictures in hopes others will "like" our posts. We might even compulsively check our social media to see how many people liked our post, commented on it, or shared it. It's also tempting to see how many friends/followers we can get, as if we are collecting stamps, Pokemon cards, or accumulating money.
Teens and young adults can get particularly caught up in this, which might include taking scores of selfies to get the "perfect" one, using filters and apps to enhance photos before posting, and only posting ones for the purpose of getting as many followers and "likes" as possible. Sure, some of us don't engage in "liking" others' posts nor care whether folks "like" our posts. But most of us care at least a little. Some of us are obsessed with "likes" and followers.
Why do we care whether people view and "like" our posts? This will be the topic for another day, but in short, it is a way of giving and receiving validation. Paying attention to our posts, in the form of "likes," is one way of seeing that we matter to others.
In this sense, social media "likes" are a social validation scorecard. At least, that's one of the hooks of social media. Acquiring more friends or followers is another way of receiving social validation. The more we have, the more we matter... right?
Social Media as a Red Herring
Should we be spending so much time on social media if no one really cares about our posts? It's important that we learn to view social media from a realistic perspective. When it comes to trying to get social validation, social media is basically a red herring. We are under a societal delusion that our posts matter, but they don't. At least, they don't in the ways that we deeply long for them to matter. Here's that proof.
Proof That No One Really Cares About Our Posts
I'm going to don my philosophy cap for this "proof" that our social media posts don't really matter. I'm not going to cite research. Rather, my proposition is an a posteriori argument — that is, we can reflect on our personal experiences to see the truth of what I'm proposing. Are you ready?
- No cheating by opening up one of your social media accounts.
- Did you check your social media last week? How many times would you estimate that you "liked" people's posts? Maybe a dozen times over the week? Several dozen?
- Try to think of a specific social media post of someone else's that you "liked" last week. Go ahead. I'll wait right here. Keep thinking...wait for it...got one? How long did it take you to come up with one? Were you even able to? If you are similar to most people, this exercise was fairly difficult. I can't even remember what I had for breakfast this morning, much less what one of my friends posted on Facebook last week.
- If you were able to recall someone's post from last week that you "liked," how much time did you spend thinking about their post after liking it? My guess is, "None." This assumes a previously "liked" post did not pop back up on your social media feed for other reasons.
- Assuming you were able to recall one from last week, how long after you "liked" it did you stop thinking about it? Three seconds, maybe? Only long enough to scroll down to the next post, I would wager.
- We've probably established now that you have "liked" social media posts from last week, but you are having difficulty thinking of ANY specific ones. Even if you were able to recall a specific one, chances are you did not think of it all after "liking" it.
- Now, let's flip things around. If you can't remember others' posts that you liked from last week, what are those other people thinking about your posts? That's right. You know the answer. They are not thinking about your posts. Once they have viewed/liked your post, they have already moved on to other posts and other things. Why? Because they have a life! They can't afford to spend precious time thinking about your old social media posts. We know this to be true because we are not thinking about theirs. We move on as well. We are so inundated with information these days that we don't have the bandwidth to think about old news.
- On a related note, if acquiring new friends/followers and "likes" within social media provided true social validation, why would we keep compulsively checking it? Why would we need to keep posting and trying to attract more followers? Trying to gain deep-rooted validation through social media is a Sisyphean task. If the time spent were truly fruitful, we wouldn't need to keep doing it. We would experience a sense of contentment as opposed to a neediness.
- If we don't really care about other people's posts, then we know they don't really care about ours either. So, why do we spend so much time posting, viewing, and "liking" when, in the scheme of things, it doesn't really matter? It's a bit crazy, right? The "truth" about our social media posts and the "likes" that hook us is that they don't really matter in the way for which we are truly longing.
We spend a lot of time on social media, and we get some benefits from it. But, in the scheme of things, social media is a bit like eating potato chips. They taste good, but they don't truly nourish our bodies. Social media should not be used as a replacement for our in-person social connections. Spending quality time with one another in-person is the way to "nourish" our deep-rooted, hard-wired need for social connection. The time we spend with others in-person is what develops the deep relationships and social connection that we truly "like."
The good news is that, to the extent that we use to learn social media to facilitate and enhance our in-person connections, we stand to come out ahead in terms of our happiness and well-being. Social media can be tantalizing, but we need to be very careful not to lose our focus on the real thing. Our in-person social relationships are what really matter.