Hey, you! Have you ever decided which filter are you using today? What angle do you look best at? What is your best smile? What paradise places will you post at this moment? What social projects or charities have you been committed to contributing to this week?
Stop, think, and post. Because these images depend on the success or failure of who you are (or appear to be). After all, in the world of social media, we need recognition from others to know who we are.
That way, the more beautiful, colourful, and busy your life is (or appears to be) on social media, the better your image will be.
Wait, did I say image? Yes, I said image (I mean, I wrote image). You didn’t read it wrong. The thing is, with so many images on social media, it’s getting harder and harder to believe that (on the other side of the screen) they’re real people, not just images.
From human beings to pixels of joy, our lives are gaining validation, applause, and likes – lots of likes. That’s why I’m begging you that before finishing this article, give your like and leave your comment (because this helps a lot in the growth of my work, OK? LOL). Come, on. How many times did you hear this query this week? There’s no way to count it. Isn’t it? But, not only of likes does man live (or does he live)?
The good news is that not every man lives only for likes. Some live for life (life outside social media). Yes, a few people are still able to enjoy dinner without necessarily having to photograph everything they eat. Some live to post, while others post to live. Post, therefore I exist.
In this way, in the virtual showcase of life, each image counts. And it counts so much, that a post is worth a thousand words. The more likes an image receives, the more followers that image will have. And the greater the number of followers, the greater the engagement. In the world of social media, engagement is empowerment. Also, depending on the popularity of the post, and how quickly it is liked/commented on, the post will be more distributed. This is great, don´t you think?
So, after all that, I ask you: what to post on social media? Before I make you burn neurons with so much thinking, here’s a tip of what not to post: sadness, tragedies, and conflicts. Yes, that’s right, because I’m talking about your lifestyle. And the internet is an extension of your life, isn’t it?
Under this bias, it is easy to understand why life on social media is more like a 90s music video, with the best shorts, landscapes, and scenery. Nothing has to do with a daily routine with a beginning, middle, and end (more middle than the end); which doesn’t always work out (no matter how much mindfulness you practise). Simply because the real world is made up of human beings,and none of them are perfect. But on social media they are! For example, you don’t see anyone posting sad or unpleasant things on social media, simply because sadness doesn’t get likes.
After much pondering on the subject, I finally understood the role of ‘happiness‘ on social media. Virtual happiness is not a state of mind; it is a product. And like any product, it is planned, designed, and shared to inform, seduce, and sell an idea. Thus, we have the marketing of happiness, whose main objective is to sell the quality of life and well-being through the countless posts of ‘shiny happy people laughing’. In this case, the product is not the photo or the post, but what it represents as well as the states it elicits by having admiration and likes from other people.
The problem with glamourising happiness in posts and status updates is using it as a ruler and parameter for our own lives. After all, those who see a post don’t see a heart. A happy (virtual) image is just a part of the day that occurs well, not the whole of it (in some cases, it´s not even a genuine joy, but a studio-made image).
Sad but true, happiness has become a business, a product increasingly visible (I mean posted) on different social media. It comes in the form of holidays, parties, healed bodies, delicacies; in short, everything that is beautiful, good, and admirable. In the world of social media, being happy is the rule, not the exception.
This situation has taken on such worrying proportions that it was portrayed in the book The Happiness Effect by Donna Freitas, which addresses how social media is leading a generation to appear perfect at any cost. In the work, the author interviews young students who talk about their constant concern (and obligation) to post happy things in exchange for likes and acceptance. Otherwise, they would have their images negatively affected, which would impact their relationships with work, school, and friends. As a result, you have highly insecure and distressed young people, who compare themselves all the time, in the name of the best projection of happiness and success on social media.
The impact of manufactured happiness on social media was also the subject of study by Brazilian anthropologist Michel Alcoforado. Entitled Economia do Mal-estar, the study group led by Alcoforado evaluated the metrification of happiness in the age of social media. According to the anthropologist, the tyranny of happiness forces us to be happy regardless of circumstances. As part of a capitalist society, where purchasing power dictates who a person is, we start to buy more and more, under the maxim that money buys things, and happiness too. This attitude gained more visibility on social media, where happiness is a result of what a person has rather than what a person is. This makes people less happy, as they start to make comparisons between those who have achieved success, versus those who have not evolved.
But why does this happen? Perhaps Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan, both psychoanalysts, have an explanation for this. Happiness is closely linked to the constant search for pleasure, to satisfy our needs. Under this bias, as soon as one satisfaction is met, another one emerges, in an infinite loop that persists until the end of our days. This way the human being always seeks to fill a void that is impossible to be satisfied, and the need for immediate gratification drives us into a vicious cycle.
Now, let’s fit this theory with the ‘reality’ of social media. According to the Brazilian psychoanalyst, Ivan Capelatto: ‘Technology brings us the possibility of bringing objects of desire closer to us, without the risk that desire dies.’ As we post pictures of beautiful places and unimaginable scenery and receive instant likes as a gratification, we avoid feelings of anguish and frustration. Thus, we achieve the desire to be constantly liked and admired on social media and through posts filled with joy and satisfaction, we fill our void (even temporarily).
That’s why virtual happiness is so glamourised. Because being happy is an object of desire that we pursue since we were children. More than a product, happiness is a journey that seems to have no end. Not as long as we have likes and validations from others saying how happy we are, even if only on social media. And what about you? Have you ever posted your best performance today?
Daniela Silva is a Brazilian educational writer and currently lives in Goiânia, Brazil with her husband. She holds a BA in pedagogy, an MBA in personnel management, and a postgraduate certificate in neuroeducation.