Yesterday I got frustrated with myself. I looked through my private Snapchat story memories. I saw all these videos and photos I had made and shared in the private story, in which only my friends are allowed to see it. I enjoyed seeing these photos and videos, bringing up nice, funny, or cute memories. However, I could not resist an uneasy feeling. I began to overthink if sharing all these particular moments was something I needed to do or if I was oversharing. Do I post these Snapchats really only for the sake of having this story-memory-hall to look back on? Well, yes and no. I do make these photos and videos for a reason: to capture moments I can enjoy looking back on. But why do I feel this constant urge to share them with others?
Sharing for the sake of sharing?
I noticed that I got very attached to this notion of sharing and showing people the fun and lovely things that I do, make, or experience. Lately, I catch myself thinking, ‘I want to make a video of this thing because it’s fun to share!’ more and more. This attitude is different from when I made the private story two or three years ago. I also shared stuff back then, but I did not have this premeditation of sharing them. It is kind of disappointing to see that this has changed. Now I have found myself in this addicting social media tunnel vision, and I want out!!
Why am I even this preoccupied in my mind to make a video to share it? I could not immediately figure out why. Is it to get validation? To showcase the best parts of my life? I think so? I searched on Google why we people want to share our lives online. Here are three reasons I encountered:
- Feeling a sense of involvement. In our nature, we are social beings. We want interaction with others. When we do not get this feeling of involvement, we can feel isolated and left out. With social media, we can update each other any time with chats, calls and posts. We can see what others do and, therefore, contribute to this online community with family, friends or other people online. This is that sense of involvement which comforts us. On the contrary, if you see something online you want to do but you’re not there, it can trigger the negative notion of FOMO (fear of missing out).
- Social approval. On our social media accounts, we often share things with the intent to get something back. Positive reactions trigger dopamine, we get pleasure out of it and therefore want more. We humans want to be liked by others and feel validated. Some people seek that more than others. Through posting on social media, you can get this positivity and validation. However, one risk of seeking validation through social media is, when your posts are not ‘performing’ well enough you may get a negative feeling which lowers your self-esteem.
- Controlling our image. This reason is that with social media, we can portray ourselves in a certain way. With the photos, videos, or reblogs we post, we can let others know what kind of person we are in terms of appearance and manners. We want to control what others think of us.
Frontstage / backstage in the online world.
I feel as though the point of ‘controlling our image’ can be connected to Goffman’s theory about the ‘frontstage’ and ‘backstage.’ As I said before, we can portray this image of ourselves through social media. According to Goffman, this is our front stage, the behavior you show when you know others are watching. In the front stage, you create this socially acceptable persona. In the setting of social media, the frontstage articulates itself in you posting what you want others to see of you. These are the best moments and looks of yourself in most cases, ignoring the other less exciting things. The backstage, however, is who you truly are without any pretending. That is the space where you are just yourself. In my case, the private Snapchat story would be the frontstage, where I curate which things I show to others and what things I do not. So I create this particular image towards them. When I am by myself, offline, I can genuinely be myself, which is thus my backstage.
Even though sharing content about your life itself is not necessarily harmful, I think the pitfall can be the reason behind why we share. If you share out of insecurity and in search of validation, then it is not a healthy way to use social media to reach for it. I now know what my ‘problem’ is and how to fix it. It takes effort to unlearn the urge to be online all the time, but I will try!
In conclusion, we should watch ourselves as to our reasons for sharing. What if it is not a healthy reason? Seek help! I have deleted Snapchat and Instagram for now to detox a little bit. I hope it helps me care less about social media and portray myself there. Making photos and videos is fun and great to share with friends, however, only for the right reasons! 🙂
Dennis Relojo-Howell, “Why We Feel the Need to Showcase Our Lives on Social Media,” April 24, 2019, https://www.psychreg.org/lives-social-media/#Our_need_to_feel_involved.
Hilda, “The Presentation of Online-Self,” PennState, March 20, 2017, https://sites.psu.edu/aspsy/2017/03/20/the-presentation-of-online-self/.
Nice blog Francien. I made a blog about a similar subject as I also got somewhat frustrated about the fact that I literally make pictures or videos only for the sake of sharing them to my online friends. I really like the fact that you use the frontstage – backstage idea of Goffman in your blog, and I did not even think of this myself but it sounds very relatable. Hope the detoxing will work out for you! I have tried it myself several times, and sometimes it can really help for a while, maybe especially during the holidays:)
I never really got used to social media in the way that I don’t take pictures for my instagram or snapchat whenever something fun happens, I always realize to late that I forgot to take a picture and to be honest, it’s not great either. I don’t really have a lot of photos of myself or ways to relive the memories. People like to think that living in the moment is better than making a picture or being on social media but I don’t agree. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the grass is not greener on the other side.
There are so many different ways to live or relive a moment.
I take many pictures but never show them on my Social Media platforms. When I look back on some events I have experienced I feel sad about not having enough pictures of that particular moment. On the other side, I feel my mind is powerful enough to really be able to go back to that moment without having pictures.
The Social Media platforms have changed over the years as well, not always in the most positive ways unfortunately. This might also result in the way we use the platform now in comparison to a couple of years ago.
This blog really encapsulates how I used to use social media during my early teenage years. The notion of sharing to get social validation and controlling one’s image is something that I think all young people go through as they try to figure out who they are online. I used to feel like I needed to post stories that showed what/where/how I was doing. Looking back at memories like the ones you mentioned on Snapchat, it’s clear to see that this is not “living in the moment” and instead we were trying to fabricate what we thought would be a moment that other people would feel was interesting or cool and would then validate something about our social standing. Something that helped me stop doing this was clearing out any pictures I had taken that I knew weren’t meaningful or authentic. Now, most of the content I share is important events or pictures that are important to me, without the intention of obsessing over who likes or sees it. The tools on platforms like Instagram make it difficult to stay true to one’s own identity with all the beauty enhancing filters and the like and story view tools. However, I think mindful sharing is still possible.
I think it is really difficult to find the sweet spot between the ‘frontstage’ and ‘backstage’ for a lot of people, myself included. I found myself either not using social media at all, or trying to push it to its limits and sharing everything. I don’t think I can find a nice balance after having tried a lot of things and in the end I just decided to not use social media at all, just sharing the good moments with the people I enjoy instead of all these vague acquaintances I know around the world.