‘OMG OMG OMG [insert YouTuber’s name here] has just retweeted me!’ God, these words make me sick to my stomach, I can’t believe this is what the youth of today actually value, I find myself utter beneath my breath, and then I remember when Emilio Estevez (allegedly, he) followed me on Twitter and I re-tweeted that story all over town. I hit ‘like’ because I like that someone is happy. I retweet to spread the joy. A tiny globule of jealous ‘bile’ resides in my throat and I manage to neutralise it with, not to sound corny, but, love.
Let’s face it. We like to be happy, we like to be successful and we love to hate those who seem to be having more fun than us. That’s normal. I propose that, actually, we can start to truly like what we sometimes pretend to like, online.
So when does online-bragging, or sharing, become too much?
I suppose it depends on the braggers sense of shame and the tolerance of their audience (in the crudest of terms) or in a more positive spin, how happy the person is about their life, and how genuine their online-friends are. Because the other side to this coin, is that, actually, it is a choice in all of us which determines how we respond to what our friends post, much like whether we get jealous or not is a life-choice. These social networks that so often become hotbeds for malice, have the potential to actually do what they were made for: to connect people. And this is a lesson which I am learning and re-learning. I have often made the mistake of getting embroiled in an argument or posting sarky comments to get a rise, but now I am finding liberation and inspiration in genuinely loving people and actively choosing to like what I ‘thumbs-up’.
There is so much negativity on social media. There is danger. There are predators out there. But, also, there are some lovely things that happen in these places. Things like memorial pages. When someone dies in the world they never die online. Our footprints are forever etched into the sand, our eulogy is there, in the expanse of the internet. Friends and families visit the deceased’s page and like an online headstone lay down their marks of respect like word-bouquets. The difference between this, and actually going to a grave is that, within seconds, mourners are connected in their shared-loss and people know that they are not alone. What a comforting image that is.
In this realm of interconnections, religious groups actually spread love! I know this may be hard to stomach when everywhere you look is faith-skeptic and paranoid, but social media is a place where worshippers (or as I like to call them do-gooders) can come together and… do-good. I use the term ‘do-gooder’ with absolute respect and not only for the faithful but instead a term which extends to any kind of charitable or pastoral deed or person. People that I know, do-good online. They set up prayer groups and support networks which go beyond tiny-communities and unite millions of people who believe in whatever religion or good cause…and spread the one feeling, or state that unites do-gooders: love! Love, in whatever form, changes lives. We see this manifested in shares which raise awareness, that celebrate, that commemorate, in memes which make us laugh or that make us feel. And that’s no bad thing.
I know that the internet can be a destructive place, which is why I want to remind us, and myself, of the value of a ‘like’ and the responsibility and opportunity which comes from a comment and a share. We have a great resource in our social networks in particular, which can actually change the world for the good, kind of a Pay it Forward kind of concept. I suppose this is me paying this idea forward. Believe in your likes. Truly be friends with your ‘friends’, inspire your followers and spread the love. It’s all that really matters.