Relationships

Social Media and Your Ego: How to Feel Good in the Age of Digital Sharing

February 9, 2012

CIRCLE THE BEST CHOICE WITH A #2 PENCIL:
A. Communication is easier than ever.
B. We are very reachable.
C. Communication is harder than ever.
D. We are very unreachable.
E. All of the above.THE CORRECT ANSWER IS…drumroll please…

E!

Technically speaking, interpersonal contact is simpler, faster, and more efficient than ever before. Emotionally speaking, however, we are highly unreachable.
(Did my pocket just vibrate?…I could’ve sworn I felt a vibrate…. Sorry, did I just interrupt something?)

Communication is at an interesting historical crossroad.
Humans are sharing information at mind-boggling rates.
Share it on Twitter. Share it on Facebook. Share it on YouTube.
Share it on Google+ (does anyone actually do that?).
Share it here. Share it there. Share it everywhere.

I share a lot. For me, sharing is both cathartic and intimidating.
When someone re-tweets my tweet or forwards my blogpost it is very validating and encouraging. But what happens when people don’t respond?

It can feel lonely.
Like: “Maybe people just don’t get me.” Or: “Maybe I’m boring.”

The urge to share, and the risk it entails, is not a new phenomenon.
It is woven into the basic fabric of human nature.
In the words of Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik:

“When one senses his aloneness, his original and unique internal world,

he also feels a desire to share his message with others.

Unfortunately, because the message is new and strange to those around him,

it is often not accepted.

When man cannot communicate with others outside of himself,

he suffers from the experience of loneliness.”

(Thinking Aloud, pg. 267)

The Rav was talking pre-Twitter, and pre-Facebook.
But his words are more relevant today than ever.When others identify with what I share, I feel embraced and empowered.
When others don’t identify with what I share (but, instead, question my sanity) I feel rejected and invalidated.
Welcome to world of social media, where sharing is daring.There is identification and isolation.
Followers and UN-followers.
Acceptance and rejection.
I have felt the joys of the former, and the pains of the latter.
And I keep sharing. Because I think both experiences are equally important for my ego.
Different strokes inspire different folks.
What interests me might not interest you – and this, in itself, is an invaluable lesson.
~
Many are quick to dismiss the emerging “Share Culture” as a passing fad that will go out of style, or as an immature distraction we just can’t seem to shake. But sharing has been happening for centuries. Humans will always want to share; nothing could be more natural.

But why does it feel so unnatural at times?

It often feels like I have a love/hate relationship with my iPhone.
There are times when I absolutely love sharing, and other times when it feels so shallow and meaningless – why?
I ask myself this question often, and I think the answer comes down to my intent.

Am I sharing for applause or am I sharing as a means of self-expression?

Self-expression will feel natural, because it is natural. Like music, the act of expression itself provides the sense of liberation. The entire book of Tehillim is a collection of songs of pure self-expression. I don’t think King David would’ve cared about how many “retweets” or “likes” he could amass. That wasn’t the point.

Self-promotion will feel unnatural. Especially when no one identifies with the product I’m selling, and even more especially if the product I’m selling is myself. It feels unnatural because it’s not really “sharing”; it’s something else, called “begging.” There is no liberation in begging.

One of the most important lessons that I’ve learned from the Share Culture is that my motives will always define my experience of the share. Moreover, my self-esteem will usually direct my motives.

When we feel good about ourselves, we are free to express ourselves.
When we don’t, we beg for validation.

The validation of a retweet is not nearly as rewarding as the enjoyment of brainstorming and thinking and sharing something that strikes a personal chord in us.

Enter, once again, Rav Soloveitchik:

“If my audience will feel that these interpretations are also relevant to their perceptions and emotions, I shall feel amply rewarded.

However, I shall not feel hurt if my thoughts will find no response in the hearts of my listeners.”

(The Lonely Man of Faith, pg.9)

What makes digital sharing such a self-conscious experience is that we don’t get to see any real-time, face-to-face reactions. The best we can hope for is a digital smiley face. Or, the occasional “xoxo.”

We often have no clue if people really notice what we share.
But that shouldn’t diminish the value of self-expression.

Sharing is daring.
But it is liberating as well.

Thank you for letting me share.

Doni Joszef LMSW is a cognitive psychotherapist practicing with adolescents and young adults in Cedarhurst. He is a member of the DRS Guidance Department, and is available by appointment. Contact Doni by cell: (516)316-2246 or email: DJoszef@Gmail.com