There are some people who were already adults by the time social media came to the fore and then were others who grew up with social media. In the first case, one had to gradually adapt to what was appearing and in the other, it would be something they had to learn but not something they necessarily had to adapt to.
So while some people know what it’s like to live without social media (it might take them a while to remember), there will be others who have no idea what it’s like to live without it. And even if they were around before it was launched (and this may have only been a matter of years), it might not have been enough time to have had an impact.
However, just because one was around before social media, it doesn’t mean that is has less of an effect on them. People of all ages have profiles on one or a number of social media sites and while there are certain restrictions as to what age you have to be, these are not always followed.
And once one has created a profile, they can share just about every part of their life with their ‘friends’ or followers. Everything they do can be captured with a camera and then posted online and everything on their mind can be expressed on a screen.
When one spends their time around someone or engages in some kind of activity, there is the chance that they will soon become attached. What they have become attached to and therefore identified with, will become part of their identity.
This is a normal part of life and comes down to the fact that human beings are interdependent. So one’s identity is formed by inner and external factors. It could be said that these external factors are what allow one’s inner needs to be fulfilled.
Yet these needs that are being fulfilled might not relate to their true needs. In fact, they could relate to their unmet childhood needs.
As a human being, one wants to be affirmed for who they are or for the image that they present to the world. In an ideal world, one would have been affirmed during their childhood years and this would have allowed them to create a strong sense of self.
When one has a strong sense of self, it is going to mean that one is not dependent on outside sources. This doesn’t mean that one is not affected by what is taking place externally; it means that one doesn’t give their power away to others to define who they are.
How this works
So one is able to feel good about themselves (self-esteem) and this is not because everyone in the world gives them the responses they want, it is because they like who they are and they are affirmed by the people they are close to. This is why it is important for one to have people around them who are supportive and who approve of them.
However, if one wasn’t affirmed as a child and ended up having their needs overlooked, it can set them up to look towards others to affirm them. As they didn’t receive the positive regard that they needed during these years, it would have affected their ability to develop a sense of self.
Physically an Adult
One may look like an adult, but it doesn’t mean they are able to see life through the eyes of an adult. The child that lives within them can then end up looking towards others to give them what didn’t get whilst they were growing up.
But as it is not possible for everyone they meet to give them the approval they didn’t get as a child, it is not going to be possible for one to have a balance sense of themselves all the time they are placing their worth in the hands of others.
So let’s say that one’s sense of self is based on how other people respond to them and that they don’t have the ability to regulate how they feel, it is going to be important for them to receive other people’s approval.
One could then upload pictures, videos and post certain things in order to receive the kind of responses that will make them feel good. And if one shares something that allows them to regulate how they feel about themselves, they could soon become attached to social media.
Whether they feel good or bad is then defined by what takes place on a social media site. When one gets the kind of responses that make them feel good all will be well, but if they don’t, one could soon hit rock bottom.
It could be said that social media has made them dependent on the responses of others and while it could look this way, this might be a half-truth. Instead, one may have had trouble regulating how they feel and not had any support around them, and social media was then seen as the solution.
Pointing the Finger
There is the chance that social media has made one even more dependent on the views of others, but to say that it has caused one to depend on the views of others might be going a bit far. This would be like blaming alcohol or drugs - the need had to be there in the first place.
In recent years there has been a big focus on what people eat and how important exercise is, but when it comes to one’s mind and emotions, the same can’t always be said. As a result of this, people of all ages are often at a loss as to how to deal with their ‘negative’ thoughts and emotions.
Without the right education in place, people are going to be drawn to things that will make them feel better. It is not always going to matter how healthy these options are or if they will create more problems down the line, what will be at the forefront of their mind is what they can do to feel better now.
If one is looking towards everyone to approve of them, it could be a sign that one needs to grieve their unmet childhood and that they need to develop a sense of self. This is then a process of letting go and receiving - letting go of one didn’t get and will never get, and receiving the positive regard they didn’t receive during their formative years.
As this takes place, one will develop the ability to regulate how they feel and to reach out to a select group of people who will assist one in this when it is not possible for them to do it themselves. This can take place through the assistance of a therapist or a healer.
Another option would be for one to develop close relationships with people in the real world who can affirm them for who they are. One might need to learn about relationships and/or communication in order to do this.
Breaking away from social media and not allowing it to define one’s identity is another thing that one can do. One can then develop an identity that is not based on how others respond to them on social media.
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Oliver J R Cooper
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 26 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.