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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sharing is Caring: The Need for Online Connection

A recent work-out selfie I shared with my current fitness progress on Instagram
Sharing is Caring: The Need for Online Connection
Paulo Coehlo, author of the novel The Alchemist, once said “It's part of the human condition to want to share things." As emotional beings, we are fundamentally wired with the desire to connect with others, and be validated by them. The support of our peers is truly integral to our success. Yet, sometimes, when we share our lives with others, we’re chastised for it. Particularly by those who claim that the acceptance and support of other human beings doesn’t mean much to them (an assertion I’m not buying for a moment).

Anyone who has participated in social media over the last two or three years has likely been assaulted by supposed compulsory social rules, and soul-sucking “list articles” with titles like “Ten Things Never to Do On Facebook”. I’ve always been a little anti-establishment so I will admit, that kind of headline turns me off from the get go. Still, so do the sentiments behind the writing. Who am I to try and control what people like to share? Even if someone's habits are offensive, racist or marginalizing, I have options. Defriend. Buh-bye.
From people griping about too many pictures of children (I LOVE seeing cute babies and sticky ice cream cones in my Facebook feed and I’m being totally serious) to complaints about friends who are going through emotional struggles and need a little more validation than usual (think about the close friend experiencing a divorce or loss of a loved one), people seem to expect that other’s sharing habits should please them, and by no means make their own private worlds feel threatened. They are the first in line to sit back and make snap judgments, and they are also often guilty of projecting their own insecurities onto those they may feel are happier, more successful, etc.
Image from
Give it a rest, Judge Judy.

Jade Mazarin, a board certified counselor and writer for PsychCentral, claims that humans are “looking for the approval of those closest to us on some level”. That desire for acceptance often extends to our friends online. We care about having their support; their understanding of our journey.
And it’s ok.
Yep, I’m talking about statuses, and selfies—and all of it. Contrary to popular belief and the viral outbreak of shared parody articles like the one claiming that excessive selfies are a psychological disorder (which is totally false), there’s nothing wrong with you if you enjoy sharing the beautiful pie you made for Thanksgiving dinner, your son’s A+ report card, or your recent weight loss transformation. In fact, as suggested by a 2013 article by Time, “Selfies Matter” for our sense of self in this modern world. Guess what? I’m high fiving you on the other side of the screen. I’m happy for you. I can be happy for you…
Because I’m happy with me.
Image from
I’ve loved sharing my updates about body image, my honest and transparent progress with weight loss and increased fitness, and in general, my zest for life right now. Why wouldn’t I post a gym selfie? I’m loving #fitlife! I receive such wonderful support from friends and families. But once in a while, I’ll hear a passive aggressive comment or backhanded compliment about how I’m “seeking attention” for my accomplishments.
Yes, sharing can become problematic when a person’s only validation comes from external sources. In these cases, folks aren’t just looking for acceptance through Snapchat or Instagram. The trouble goes deeper than that. We see individuals in abusive and co-dependent relationships, getting manipulated by their employers, or disrespecting themselves in some fundamental way. People with mental illnesses like Narcissism might have concerning behaviors online. Perhaps, on a deep internal level, they just don't value themselves. And there’s always room for more exceptions.
But what about the rest of us, plugging away in our every day lives, trying to grow, and achieve new things? Whether it’s a Couch to 5k challenge or the cultivation of your new band, I’m rooting for you. On Bandcamp. And Facebook. And Instagram. And MyFitnessPal.  Furthermore, I refuse to feel guilty for sharing my accomplishments simply because it might make someone else feel insecure about their world. I can’t thrive in a space that requires me to place those kinds of limits on myself, for fear that I’ll snag someone else’s tripwire. It’s unrealistic. It stifles my own growth and positive vibes, which I enjoy extending to other human beings as part of a cycle of love that I’m manifesting.
So please, share away. And know that as I partake in that same activity, I wish you well and validate you as another human who feels an intrinsic desire to connect, meaningfully, through social networks.
Unless you’re trying to sell me something.
Please don't try to sell me something.
That changes everything. ;)


Seeking to Be Understood: The Need for Approval
Taking Too Many Selfies? Don’t Worry, It’s Not a Disorder
Why Selfies Matter

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