Yesterday we discussed Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs as a tool for better understanding what motivates us. I thought it be worth spending a day looking at this sequence of needs and our interactions with social media which have quickly become part of our modern society.
Why has social media become so popular so quickly? Maslow’s hierarchy may offer an explanation. Social media cannot meet our physiological needs for food, air, sleep, shelter, etc. Facebook cannot physically feed us or rejuvenate us the way sleep does. Social media doesn’t provide us with a safe and secure environment, good health, or financial security. We simply cannot fulfill these needs through our personal devices.
As a tool to interact with others on a mass scale, social media does attempt to touch the third and fourth human needs of love/belonging and esteem. We can try to satisfy our need for love and belonging through the interactions that take place. We seek esteem through the acknowledgment of our posts and comments when others bless us with a “like” or a comment back. When we post something and others respond, it feels good. And we have come to learn that we can make others feel good by simply responding to their posts.
The Wizard reminded Tin Man that he had a heart all along, but the one thing he was lacking was a “testimonial.” Tin Man needed affirmation that he was loved. When others like and comment on our posts, it is as though they are giving us a testimonial. Whether we acknowledge this consciously or unconsciously, we can use social media to seek that affection. Are the effects lasting?
Social media has so many positive impacts on modern society, namely the ability to instantly communicate and share information with others without regard to geographic borders. It’s truly amazing. Yet, its side effects include negative feelings caused by comparison. Keeping up with others on a mass scale has clearly become an epidemic in our society.
Personally, I have a “love/hate” relationship with social media. The ability to reach large groups of people quickly, find out what’s going on in people’s lives and to stay connected is incredible. But without intense focus and concentration, it is all too easy to get stuck. We might open our social media app with a specific purpose in mind, only to become immediately distracted by something we see, then minutes or even hours later, find ourselves scrolling through having forgotten the original reason for signing on in the first place. It sure seems like a huge distraction trap and it often feels like a necessary evil.
Yet in our search for oneness, social media can also be used as a tremendous tool to help facilitate personal growth. Does it truly help us to fulfill our needs for love and esteem? Perhaps, we can use it to deeply explore our inner most feelings and get to know ourselves and our own needs better. What if the next time you log into social media, you were to stay completely focused on your own feelings? Let’s call this the “Social Media Meditation.” As you scroll through your feed, ask yourself some questions:
- Do you find yourself comparing your life to others?
- Do you feel envy or admiration?
- Inspiration or discouragement?
- Love or fear?
- Are your needs being met by this experience?
- Generally speaking, when you interact with social media, are you conscious of the feelings you experience? Or do the feelings happen unconsciously?
I don’t know about you, but for me social media creates all sorts of conflicting feelings. Is social media a good thing or something to be avoided? Perhaps we don’t have to answer that question at all. Maybe it can simply be a tool to help us recognize that each of us experiences all of these feelings and that’s perfectly okay.