Imagine a world where clicks equal dollars. Where likes and shares not only feed our egos, but also our children. A world where retweets and comments satisfy our inner desire to be accepted and liked, and pay our mortgages. Or do we live in that world already?
With all the noise the recent CAA-signing of “Instagram star” Fat Jew made, or the continual noise other social media superstars make, or the spontaneous celebrity status that a good viral video can bestow on any schmuck with a cellphone and a YouTube account, there is a strong case to be made that we are quickly approaching a world where everyone will be monetizing their internet clicks. But just how quickly are we nearing this universe, and is it good for our society?
Gone are the days where family experiences are enjoyed solely by those experiencing those moments in real time. Not only do we document our lives in photos and videos for our own nostalgic purposes, we also broadcast our lives to our friends, our family, our co-workers, random people that we kinda-sorta knew in high school, and, for those with public profiles, complete strangers.
Whether our aim is to keep up with Joneses, or to appear successful and happy to those around us, we have become immersed in a culture of sharing and comparing. A culture that is driven by selfies, and groupies, and filters, and food pics. A culture that says, “Hey you! Yes, you. And you. You too. All of you- Look at me! Look at my kids! Look at my life! Look at how great I am!”
"But here’s the real question: why do we feel the need to turn our lives into clickable content?"
And I won’t sugarcoat the truth -- I am just as guilty of participating in this world as everyone else. In fact, as someone who makes a living as a paid entertainer in the medium of the Internet, I am probably more guilty of these crimes than most. I take selfies with my wife and daughter. I post pictures and updates of me doing cool stuff. I share my thoughts and opinions on every topic I can. I am a social media junkie. I broadcast, I consume, I comment, I poke. (Okay, I lie. I don’t poke. Nobody pokes. In fact, just what the hell is the purpose of a poke?)
But here’s the real question: why do we feel the need to turn our lives into clickable content?
I’ll tell you this, it’s not the money. Oh sure, profit can be achieved through Internet clicks, but as of now, those returns are not as high as one would possibly assume. Measurable financial gain from Internet traffic is still reserved for the select few, and is done primarily through advertising and brand sponsorships (just ask the board members over at Twitter). But for the average social media user, monetization is not the desired result, nor is it the impetus to post.
"I propose that the driving force behind our perpetual need to post our lives on the Internet is the same motive that has driven pretty much every other evolution of social human interaction -- the desire to feel wanted, accepted, admired and loved."
I propose that the driving force behind our perpetual need to post our lives on the Internet is the same motive that has driven pretty much every other evolution of social human interaction -- the desire to feel wanted, accepted, admired and loved.
Garnering social media “likes” on a photo of your family is the 21st Century equivalent of a face-to-face compliment. That click equals someone saying, “congratulations, you have a beautiful family.”
And guess what: that compli-click, or click-iment, makes us feel good.
The “comment” on your opinionated status about the role of the government in healthcare replaces a face-to-face dialogue with a neighbor. If they agree with you, great, not only was your opinion validated, you are also suddenly filled with the euphoric feeling of social acceptance that we all so desperately crave. And if they disagree with you, no big deal, you can post a Slate.com article that backs up your opinion, thereby making you feel superior in intelligence and your ability to research facts. It’s a win-win two-for-one! (and bonus happy points if fellow Facebook friends like your rebuttal comments in the debate thread!)
And that “share” on the video you took of your toddler singing Part of Your World from Disney’s The Little Mermaid not only reminds you that you are a great parent and your child is super smart for her age, but it assures you that your friends’ friends will also know these facts.
"Will we ever enter a world where these social media clicks of acceptance equal the everyday regulated currency of our economy? I highly doubt it."
You see, whether it's an internet click on social media, or it’s a caveman complimenting his fellow caveman's freshly picked berries, human beings have an inherent desire to feel wanted and loved. Even if you don’t like to admit it, or you pretend “you don’t care what other people think,” you do. We do. We all do. We always have, we always will. It’s in our primal nature.
Will we ever enter a world where these social media clicks of acceptance equal the everyday regulated currency of our economy? I highly doubt it. But I don’t think social media is going away anytime soon, nor do I think that its importance as the face of our personal brand will fade, especially if you work in an entertainment or media related field. (PS: Next time you see me, kick me in the groin for using the phrase “personal brand.”)
So until we enter the next phase of social media, a world in which we strap-on VR goggles and literally live each others lives, keep sharing your content -- and who knows -- maybe your next post will be the one that scores you that lucrative commercial contract.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC its affiliates, or its employees.
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