Social media has been linked to higher levels of loneliness, envy, anxiety, depression, narcissism and decreased social skills. As a Behavioral Scientist, I wonder what causes this paradox? The narratives we share and portray on social media are all positive and celebratory. It’s a hybridized digital version of “Keeping up with the Joneses”. Meaning for some, sometimes it appears everyone you know are in great relationships, taking 5-star vacations and living your dream life.
However, what is shared only broadcasts the positive aspects of our lives-the highlight reels.
Since we’re only getting people’s highlight reels and comparing it to ourselves, it is natural to have reactions to what we’re watching. How does this impact relationships, dating and our love lives? I conducted in-depth interviews with men and women, ranging from ages 28-73, that are active social media users and found that:
- 60% of people using social media reported that it has impacted their self-esteem in a negative way
- 50% reported social media having negative effects on their relationship
- 80% reported that is easier to deceive others through their social posting
It seems that social media is creating a paradox effect: giving off the illusion of many choices, while making it harder to find viable options. Can it be that our highly connected world has now become disconnected? Posting dinners, selfies and vacay photos over human interaction for some is interaction. That IS their interaction. The paradox effect in dating is creating the illusion of having more social engagement, social capital, and popularity, but masking one’s true persona. Since some are interfacing digitally more than physically it is much easier to emotionally manipulate others because they are reliant on what I call “Vanity Validation”. The one you portray on your networks and the true you, for some creates a double consciousness. Your lauded self on social media is constantly seeking more validation through electronic likes, not life.
In the latest Match Singles in America study’s findings on how social media has impacted people’s dating lives, they found that 57% of singles say social media has generated a Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO). In my study, 50% reported feeling FOMO when comparing themselves to others on social media, while 60% of millennials reported feeling FOMO. Are we comparing ourselves to other people’s highlight reels? Are we creating a false reality? It seems that we’re only willing to share things that get positive reinforcement. If we’re living through only focusing on the highlight reels, how do we express the negative side of our lives?
If you’re comparing yourself to someone else’s profile, aren’t you discounting yourself? Anything that we share on our streams are things that we’re either excited about or creating some popularity for yourself. Are we supposed to applaud that you eat? Are we supposed to applaud that you are out? Are we supposed to applaud the 100th seflie you took while you were out? Are we beginning to learn to relate to people for immediate gratification only?
Won’t this impact our dating behaviors? If we only broadcast the “look at me”, are we able to deal with the side of rejection, detachment, and non-commitment? Are you surprised when people blow you off or lead you on aka ghost, bench, gaslight or breadcrumb? Yet another paradox. Here we are thinking the world is a positive and reinforcing place, that we are interesting, we’re so popular; then we get ghosted, breadcrumbed, benched.