Wednesday, May 14, 2014

On social media, every day is Valentine's Day in grade school — in the old days — when you didn't have to have a card for all your classmates

A recent psychology report by some Australian researchers about our wishes and expectations on social media has the provocative title — keywords that grab in today's cyberworld are de rigueur, don't you know — "Threats to Belonging on Facebook: Lurking and Ostracism."

The gist of the research, relayed by the New York Times,  was that people directed to go passive on Facebook and just observe what the designated active group was posting later felt worse about themselves.  And so did participants in a second study, who were directed to be active but were not told that their posts would be deliberately ignored. Oh, the misery!

Shades of tears in the hallway on long-ago Feb. 14ths, of clutching a wrinkled handful of cards, looking furtively at popular classmates hauling away bagfuls of heart-themed souvenirs!

Apparently, updated by technology, we have bought into a perpetual need to have our popularity declared and reaffirmed by our peers. We have shifted the means to have this need met to Facebook likes and a thread of supportive comments (even the teasing, almost caustic ones are supportive, we like to think). On Twitter, we count on being retweeted and favorited. If we blog, we're fixated on monitoring page views — are they climbing, creeping or staying the same as just after we posted?

You often hear (or see posted) expressions from certified grown-ups that they want to do thus-and-such or go somewhere special or be some kind of person they admire "when I grow up."  It's an excusable, if threadbare, fantasy. With these new studies, we now know that many of us want the same obsession we had with popularity as youngsters to follow us when we grow up, whenever that may be.

Love me, love my cute pet video! Want to be my friend? Indulge me in a political rant, supported by the somewhat more articulate rant I've shared from a website I frequent. Want to salivate along with me without the satisfaction of tasting? Probably not, but please gaze approvingly upon these photos of the luscious meal I just made.

Want to demonstrate that you're cool, with it, in the know? Share, like, or favorite my product recommendations or opinions, because I'm cool, with it, in the know.  I'm pretty sure I am, anyway.

But I'd sure be grateful if lots of you out there openly agreed, even the ones I hardly know. Your endorsement means so much to me, although I wouldn't recognize you from Adam's off ox if we met on the street.

That is the thinking, and I'm reluctant to tell you which parts of the above paragraph hit close to home with me. Yet, even though my blog is centered largely on public events experienced by many others, rather than the flotsam and jetsam of my daily life, there's undeniably ego involved in my fervent hope that untold numbers of people want to learn what I in particular make of these public events.

So, hey, pay attention out there, please! And think fond thoughts about me. I'm not in this for my health, you know. I've got a brace of Australian studies to prove it.