You’ve done it. I’ve done it.
You post something. You say something. You wear something. You buy something. And why did you do it? Not primarily because you’re excited about the thing itself. But because you’re excited about how others will react to you doing it.
The likes. The comments. The praise. The admiration.
You post it, say it, wear it, buy it…because you know it’s got a coolness about it. Some social clout. Some cultural capital. And so you doing whatever it is makes you appear cool or interesting or important by extension. You do it primarily to be seen doing it.
You post a picture at that fly-ass bakery that just opened because you know everyone is going to freak out that you were there. You leave an A+ paper out on the table for the whole period so the rest of the class sees it. You spout off your review about the movie that just released to show everyone you’ve already seen it. You tweet about first-world problems you’re having on vacation like you’re suddenly a local there.
In the age of social media, some people have been able to make a living out of being seen doing things. The people who post travel pictures on Instagram to be seen jetsetting. Who Facebook about eating at the trendiest spot to be seen eating at the trendiest spot. Who “try out” a new product in a YouTube video to be seen using it. They have a reputation of coolness that they get paid for in various ways, because they’re always seen doing the coolest things.
But you needn’t be trying to make a living out of being seen to be a participant. And it’s nothing especially new. Doing things primarily to try to gain status and admiration has been around for a long time. Conspicuous production & consumption seem to be a part of our human nature. Part of the quest to fit in socially and feel liked by others.
We just have more opportunities to do so now than ever before. Instagram has over 600 million active users. That’s a lot of people who can easily post photos and videos in a medium where there’s a temptation to do it to see how many likes and comments you can get.
Are you in an interesting or unusual place?
Did you just see something or someone famous?
Are you doing something exclusive–something others don’t have access or ability to do?
Are you the first to do something?
That could really get a response.
But what if no one saw you do what you’re doing? If no one praised you for it or told you how awesome you are? If you got zero likes or comments? Would you still do it?
How you decide to live and move in the world shouldn’t come down to the things other people will love you for doing. It should be about what you love doing. Things you do because you enjoy them–regardless of what others will think.
If you feel the urge to post a picture or video or status, do it because you feel privileged to experience something that brings you joy. Not because you think others will be impressed. Post it, and then close the app for awhile. Don’t even watch the response come in. The metric of value was that you loved it, not that 100 other people loved you doing it. Maybe don’t even post anything at all.
Do things for you. Not for them.