VIRTUAL VALIDATION

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.

28 thoughts on “VIRTUAL VALIDATION

  1. When my fibromyalgia was at its worse, Facebook was my ticket out of the house. Now I also administer a handful of county history and cousins pages, which I enjoy. But I wouldn’t use it as much if I were able to get out more!

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    • You are rightfully using it as a useful tool from which you have derived much interesting information (and providing it) and satisfaction. There is a place for all of these forums; I suppose much depends on how we use them and why. As you say, they are a boon for people who are not able to get out as much as they might like to. Thank you for your comment.

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  2. I no longer participate in FB. It reminded me of high especially since my high school friends were always posting photos of themselves in high school. We are 60 years old for heavens sake. High school was a long time ago.

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    • That is true. What I enjoy about the blogs I read, such as your for example, is that each deals with something specific. I have ‘seen’ so many interesting places through your lens and those of others whose blogs I have chosen to follow and learned much.

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  3. I agree with you on many points here, Anne. Not a big fan of FB myself, it creeps me out to see ads on there for things I recently searched online for. How does that even work?? I don’t trust it at all!
    ‘Likes’ are too easy and I quickly saw that many seem to scan through the Reader hitting away madly! But a comment, yes, there is the real deal! I love the exchange and connection I feel with blogging friends (they are ‘real’ people despite what non-bloggers think!) and to meet folks the world over expands my mind in ways I never could before. Your blog particularly, as I learn about flora and fauna not familiar to me. I love it!

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  4. FB has uses but the way it is run is rapidly making the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. We have several local groups who make good use of it to share useful information and enjoyable pictures. I could do without it though but I wouldn’t like to do without my blogging circle because it adds great interest to my life and widens my knowledge.

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  5. I was never a big Facebook user, using it primarily for messages, but find I have used it less frequently the past year. I find many people are drifting away from Facebook, maybe it’s a backlash to the privacy concerns and Mark Zuckerman or whatever his name it. I joined Pin interest last year with the aim to increase my blog exposure, but found it so overwhelmng and ultimately such a waste of time that I haven’t been on since.

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    • I find your comment about feeling ‘overwhelmed’ interesting for I would probably feel that way too. If I have been away for a while, even returning to a number of unread blogs can feel overwhelming, so I take my time about catching up.

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  6. Yeah, FB has its uses, but I have never been drawn to it. There are alternative and more personal ways to stay in touch with friends and family.
    Blogging for me is a niche thing and does not involve all aspects of life and family, but even so I can find it overwhelming, and it is tricky balancing the time and mental energy as there are many interesting blogs out there that I would like to read, but there is still real life to be lived not to mention real books to be read!.
    I agree that blogging should be done out of genuine interest and not driven by a quest for improving the stats for their own sake, although I do admit that I do keep an eye on the stats on my blog for what they are worth 🙂

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  7. You are spot on about the ‘likes’ on blog posts. That’s something that has occurred to me too. As for Facebook, yes I am on there. The best thing that Facebook has done for me is reveal the bigotry and misogyny of those I know in real life. To think I thought so highly of many of them! I am also grateful to have come across absolute strangers who think like me. Some of them have now become friends in real life too. 🙂 But all said and done, I love blogs and bloggers more.

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  8. Yours is one of the first blogs I headed to now that I’m back “online”, Anne! I really wanted to catch up with you and read about your Addo trip and hopefully to read about a respite from the drought! Validating or not, I like coming to have tea with you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Dries, how very kind of you. Addo was so dreadfully dry it seemed too depressing to devote a post to it – either in December or January – so I am using a few photographs for other topics. We have had two days of rain here and I can only hope that Addo will also have had a share. I enjoy having you to tea!

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  9. Hi Anne, ek het die al gelees, maar wil vandag sommer ook kommentaar lewer. Ek stem saam, FB is iets wat ek wil begin vermy. Insiggewens, soos al jou artikels. And really? A teacher? That is why we clicked from the start. Subjects? I would tink Biology? Or maybe English language?

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  10. Well written, Anne!
    I know immediately if somebody pressed like and did not read my blog. I used to link my blogs to FB but stopped altogether, because I realised that nobody really read it.
    Haven’t been on FB for a long time.

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