By: Dipak Kurmi
In today’s age, the quest for online popularity and recognition has reached unprecedented levels. A YouTuber named Vishaka Fulsunge recently captured the internet’s attention by proposing to her boyfriend outside the Kedarnath temple in a remarkable fashion – going down on one knee and presenting a ring. The video went viral on social media, clearly designed to captivate netizens and create an extraordinary moment.
Over the years, social media has become the primary avenue for people to master the art of self-promotion. They achieve this by sharing pictures of their exciting travels and vibrant parties on various platforms, attracting an overwhelming number of ‘likes.’ Undoubtedly, social media has also made it easier for individuals to express their feelings, discuss problems, and passionately voice their opinions on various topics, thus lowering the threshold for boredom and enabling them to stand on their soapbox.
In this age of social media, the line between private and public has become increasingly blurred. I have a Facebook friend who constantly shares photos of his foreign trips during official tours. Like many social media enthusiasts, he takes pleasure in showcasing his travels and basks in the flood of ‘likes’ his posts receive. It’s reminiscent of philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s argument about human nature, where he posited that people seek validation and recognition from others, desiring to be esteemed by others as much as they esteem themselves. The allure of social media seems to amplify this aspect of human behaviour, as people indulge in sharing their experiences for the satisfaction of their vanity or amour propre.
In the era of social media, there is an inherent desire to portray a fabulous and envy-worthy life for followers to emulate. From sharing photos of office party gatherings to honeymoon selfies against breathtaking mountain backdrops, individuals use social media as a platform to display their achievements. This leads to a sense of competitiveness as people compare their own lives to the carefully curated presentations of others. Pankaj Mishra, in his book ‘Age of Anger: A History of the Present,’ observes that our obsession with social media compels us to present the most appealing aspects of ourselves, making it an irresistible and contagious obligation.
In the quest for online popularity, social media influencers often go to great lengths without considering the consequences. They perform stunts in public spaces or dance inside places like the Delhi Metro, disregarding safety and causing potential harm. The pursuit of self-promotion becomes a strategy to attract attention and create a favorable image of themselves. ‘Likes’ and flattering comments become the fuel that sustains our self-centeredness. Soren Kierkegaard, a philosopher, poet, and social critic, warned that seeking constant validation from others can create a prison-like environment, limiting personal growth and freedom. He urged individuals to break free from the confines of their self-reflection and the judgments of others. Unfortunately, the more one brags about oneself on social media, the greater the chances of gaining likes and admiration on this platform.
The desire for praise is a fundamental aspect of psychological well-being. However, when this need for admiration becomes excessive, it transforms into an all-consuming pursuit of status and self-praise, ultimately undermining our capacity to foster fulfilling relationships. Furthermore, in the modern, technology-driven society, we are constantly bombarded with information and communication, leading to an expectation of immediate responses. Consequently, this can severely restrict our ability to fully immerse ourselves in the world and connect with our surroundings.
I am not an avid user of social media, but one thing I genuinely enjoy on Facebook is watching cute videos of animals and their playful antics. These videos never fail to bring me a rare sense of joy and happiness. Occasionally, I also find solace in watching videos of singers from the past, which uplifts my mood. However, I have never been inclined to post personal photos of my family functions or trips on this platform. To me, it seems that social media has allowed our narcissistic tendencies to take over, leading us to compromise our privacy. While social media offers opportunities for connection, it can also feel overwhelming and impersonal at times. I much prefer genuine human interaction, the warmth of conversations, and the comfort of physical presence. (The writer is a journalist and commentator based in Guwahati, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)