Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Tell me you love me!

We all need to feel loved.  It is essential to our health and well being. Not to mention our quality of life!

Feeling loved comes from feeling supported, connected and accepted by others. We exist in this world together. We live together, work together, play together, and dance together. Our sense of self is undoubtedly tied (in some way) to how we relate to others, as individuals and as groups. Others' reactions offer us feedback on who we are and how our actions have influence or not. But, for some of us, external feedback becomes more than just feedback. It becomes the test of whether we are worthy of being loved.

When we base our self worth on others' opinions, we enter the role of victim. We are subject to the highs and lows of that feedback.  We lose our sense of personal power when we give it away to the whims and preferences of others. On the flip side, we can't disregard all opinions of those around us.  That would be completely narcissistic and sociopathic.

It is not an all or nothing situation.  And, that is exactly what makes it so tricky and so emotionally confusing. 

I recently had a friend who posted a sort of "challenge" on Facebook, requesting those who actually care about her and the relationship/friendship to post one word in the comments about how they met.  On first glance it is a fun a playful game.  

But, when we look deeper, we can recognize the challenge as a powerful strategy for getting positive feedback which can momentarily bolster our sense of worth and importance.  Of course, the people who see it will respond!  They will want to pass the test and are now obligated if they want to affirm the relationship.  But, the strategy comes at a severe cost.  Those who don't post (for whatever reason including the fact that might not see it) have now "failed" the friendship. Is it an accurate portrayal of your friends? Or is is just a coincidence as to who was on a phone or computer at that given moment?  The test is imperfect, hugely imperfect. While it might seem benign at first, it can foster unhealthy ways of thinking about ourselves and who we are in relationship to others. What do we actually gain from asking people to post proof of their commitment or love? What happens if people don't post? And, ultimately, how does all of this affect our sense of self worth?

What does this painfully faulty, certainly imperfect, and potentially power sucking experience teach us?

Social media is entertainment (and marketing).  It is not about meaningful connection.  It can include meaningful moments, but that is the exception to the rule. In short, social media is a faulty feedback system.  As a choreographer and event director, I have learned just how easy it is for people to "like" an event or even join an event, but to actually show up at the event is another story. Social media is just plain inaccurate at times.

We know all this deep inside. Yet, we continue to play the game, and the neurons that fire together wire together. The more we engage, the more we think it is a good idea to engage.  But, it is certainly not a good idea to disengage, right? The feedback back system may be faulty, but it can still be useful, right? 

For me the key lies in the questions:
What do I hope to gain out of my time on social media?
With whom am I connecting and for what reasons?
How am I connecting and is it reflective of my real values or sense of self?

If we start to look to social media as our strategy for earning love, we will fall into a deep hole of powerlessness. This includes the moments when we feel "victory" for having 30 likes on a post, or 50 or 200! The moment of joy we feel when we get recognition is the moment we should question because it is in those moments that we have given away our power of self worth to someone else. Inevitably, the next post that only gets 2 likes will feel like a failure. Our self worth plummets again.

How do we protect ourselves from this vicious cycle?  We don't have to close our accounts, but we do have to practice awareness at every turn.  To check the highs as much as we check the lows.  We notice again and again when we are using the tool as a strategy for a deeper need like love, appreciation, connection, or acceptance.

Then we forgive ourselves. And. . . try again. 


  1. I think this has a lot to do with expectations. If we use various forms of social media to express something and expect a lot in return, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. When I post anything I am eager to see who might "like" my post as opposed to how many. Can I accurately anticipate who might "like" a post based on the content? Sometimes I can, sometimes I can't. Sometimes I'm surprised at who chooses to "like" a certain post. As long as I'm not posting something with the expectation that someone specific should "like" it, I can approach the process with a curiosity and interest that won't lead me down a self-destructive path.

  2. Great post, Beth. Someone likened the frantic checking for "likes" to the experiment where rats kept pushing a button to get the reward. Addictive and the reverse of creative -- where we create because we have to, not for the reward.

  3. Thanks for the thoughts!

    Tess, I'm so pleased you responded. As a millenial you have a unique perspective. I love your curiosity approach.

    Sandra, we are all addicts. Your point rings so true and so tragic!

    Joan, it is funny how insight in the first step, and then practice, practice, practice!