I don’t normally read Kevan Manwaring’s blog, but this one turned up in my social networking feed (ah, the irony) and the first paragraph struck me as so interesting that I wanted to share it.
“In the age of mass-vanity projects like Facebook, the art of bragging has never been more rife. Social media risks making of us all self-obsessed narcissists, locked into an endless game of brinkmanship. Looking enviously at our friends’ latest updates, we are forever keeping up with the Jones. The consequence of leading such goldfish bowl lives is continual status anxiety. And yet, once bragging was a bardic art – and perhaps something can be salvaged from it for practical use, as we continue…”
The rest is here – https://mymidnightdisease.wordpress.com/2015/01/07/the-art-of-bragging/ and goes into bragging as art.
What struck me about the paragraph above is how far it is from my own experience of social media. I don’t spend much time on it – ten minutes here and there in a day to see what’s out there. I have a vast array of connections of twitter, ello, facebook, linkedin, google+ goodreads and here on lovely wordpress. My social media experience contains breadth, depth, variety, richness. Tales of triumph, tragedy, small victories, little wins, inspiration shared and plenty of kittens. I post about things I think will amuse, uplift, encourage or inspire others. Sometimes when I am down I post needy little things and people come over and make soothing noises. I see it less as vanity, more as connection, expressing relationship and engagement, no more or less vain than any other social aspect of my life.
I don’t feel competitive most of the time, and outside of the odd shouty group, I don’t see much evidence of competition. It could be that I just do a really good job of selecting my friends and attracting splendid, interesting people more interested in sharing and co-operating than outplaying each other.
Sometimes of course there is envy – the grand adventures and professional successes of others do cause little green and jealous moments. I’m fine with this. It seems healthy, to me, to be aware of the greater successes of others, to see my own life and work in a wider context and to not always like how that looks. I don’t mind being uncomfortable, and I can say, hand on heart, I am always more glad for and proud of the people in my life for what they achieve and do, than I am envious, and I hope they feel the same way about me – I also see no reason to think anyone doesn’t.
Alain du Botton has some interesting things to say about status anxiety in his book Status Anxiety. We all get it now and then. This is because (to use my language, not his) our place in the tribe matters. Having a place at all has been a matter of life and death for most of human history. We need to fit somewhere. It is ok to care about that.
When we are ok about the idea of being uncomfortable sometimes, life gets easier. It won’t be perfect, it never is. Sometimes there are bumps and ego bruises, sometimes we aren’t as good as we think we are – it’s all part of being human. For the person who isn’t at ease with their own occasional discomfort, social media could very easily be hellish. For the person driven by the urge to compete, it will be a competitive space. It’s one of those fine examples of what we get out looking a great deal like what we put in, and what we believe shaping what we perceive.