Validation is used here in the sense of the recognition or affirmation that a person, their feelings, or their opinions are considered valid or worthwhile. Note that this is not meant to be a Facebook bash – it happens to have been the focus of the article I read.
The content of this article remained with me for some time and set me thinking about the influence of social media – as a school teacher I witnessed much hurt and angst relating to this for the popularity of individual pupils could soar or be dashed on the rocks in a moment. The article I read was a refreshingly honest account by a woman who had turned off her Facebook account after having used it for over a decade. She did so after realising that she had overstepped the mark in voicing her opinions and had, in the process, hurt her friends and family, harmed her business and done her partner an injustice not deserved. Prior to this she had enjoyed commenting on what other people had posted, given advice and had started several groups that had brought like-minded people together – all of which she felt she was good at.
I have never felt the need to join Facebook. People who knew me in the past and who have forgotten me should probably remain there. I am told that forums such as WhatsApp and particularly Facebook make it easy to let someone know you are thinking of them or have remembered a special day without providing any information about yourself or expecting any from the recipient of your wishes. Remaining in contact like this could be a tenuous position akin to saying ‘At least I know she is alive’ even if I know nothing much about the life she leads, what she enjoys, or what her views are. Press send and all is well with the world.
The author of the article I read wrote about the validation she got from her various interactions on Facebook: readers liked what she posted; expressed gratitude for her advice; and joined the groups she had started. She found she was checking her account several times a day, receiving an injection of validation each time that boosted her self-esteem: that virtual world had become her main source of validation.
We all like to be liked. I have enjoyed receiving letters that enabled me to keep abreast of friends settling into new countries, starting families and so on. Such descriptions kept them ‘real’, even when our communication dwindled to an annual e-mail over the festive season or stopped. I imagine it is easier to greet on Facebook and so those not operating on that platform miss out.
Validation is an important part of our sense of well-being. Yet, as the author put it, “it is not healthy when we rely on total strangers to give us that boost.” That happens with blogging too. I enjoy blogging – probably as much as other people enjoy Facebook – and it pleases me when anyone unrelated to me takes the time to read my posts. As a newbie I was thrilled when anyone ‘liked’ a post – that was validation of a sort – until it dawned on me that one can ‘like’ a post without even reading it and that some people do so (or comment) simply in the hope that you will visit their post and boost their statistics. Those statistics. As interesting and gratifying as they might be, can they be really validating if you have lured readers to boost them?
Admittedly, I derive satisfaction from having garnered a core of regular readers who often comment meaningfully on my posts so that a bond of familiarity has started to develop between us. I look forward to comments now much more than being concerned with the number of ‘likes’.
Is the time spent at my computer reading and responding to comments; reading and responding to other blogs; as well as preparing my next post a valid use of my time? So far it is not keeping me away from real friends and family, nor is it becoming a substitute for relationships I am lacking. The article about Facebook remains as a warning though not to allow the pleasure of those virtual interactions to gain a hold over the real reactions we can have with the people whom we hold dear.