The Quantified Self-Worth

30 Apr

Via YPulse

According to marketing agency YPulse, 50% of 18-33 year-olds say that getting a “like” on Facebook gives them a rush. This number goes down for younger audiences- but YPulse suspects it’s actually because “likes” are second-nature for them. They’ve grown up in a world of likes and retweets, so it’s possible that social media “affirmation” registers as a given. If you’re a teenager, you may not know life without social media. But for the rest of us, let’s think back to the days before we posted our lives and thoughts online. In a given day, we may have gotten compliments on our outfits, caught up with friends, or gotten into debates on heavy topics. But we didn’t have such a centralized, public platform to tell people about our lives. And so we didn’t have such instant access to affirmation – or lack thereof.

I believe that social media is net positive. On a given day, I may chat with a friend in France, pick up recipes from a friend in Los Angeles, learn about Chinese culture from a friend in Shanghai. I get to see baby pictures from friends who live far away, learn about events to attend, feel a sense of community with others living in San Francisco. Sometimes I worry I spend too much time online, sometimes I wonder about posting our lives as content – but overall, I think social media adds good to my world.


Facebook briefly tested a tool that summed up likes for you. I joked about it- but also kind of liked it…


And if YPulse had surveyed me, I too would have answered “yes” to the question about getting a rush from likes. I love getting likes on social media and on my blogs. I like getting compliments in real life too. Who doesn’t? It feels good. When I post things on social media and nobody interacts with them, I definitely wonder why. It doesn’t impact my self-perception in any way, but I do catch myself analyzing what drove the lack of interaction. Was it simply that Facebook’s algorithm didn’t show my post to enough people? Was it the topic I wrote about? Was it the time of day when I posted?

There’s a lot of talk these days about the quantified self: using technology to record data about how we live, in the hopes of self-improvement. You can track every step you take, every minute of sleep. I understand how this can help us improve. But I hope we don’t also enter a phase of quantified self-worth. I hope that, despite the rush we get from people affirming us online, we remember that our value doesn’t depend on likes or retweets or shares. I hope we can reap the benefits of social media, without letting the potential downsides soak in. I hope we can continue to separate social media content from real life. I hope that in a time of “influencer strategy,” we remember that we’re more than our likes.

I’ll still get a rush if people like this post. And I’ll be excited if anyone chooses to message me about it, whether they agree or not. But I’m personally trying to see social media engagement as a potential conversation, and not a game or popularity contest. If nobody likes this blog post- so be it. There’s always next time.



2 Responses to “The Quantified Self-Worth”

  1. Mary Lynn Wilson May 4, 2016 at 3:19 PM #

    Felecia, I don’t know if I agree that social media is net positive. Of course, being a woman of a “certain age” I probably have a different take on it. I see two people sitting at a restaurant table, each absorbed in their phone. Or, almost everyone on the bus thumbing (not sure the correct terminology) through their facebook, twitter or instagram postings.

    I too can catch up with old friends, share recipes, see friends pictures and discuss differences in culture, but I write letters. And I get my “like” when the individual writes back and tells me how much they enjoyed getting a physical letter; the enjoyment of sitting down with a glass of wine or cup of coffee and reading and re-reading the letter, rather than hurriedly moving on to the next important tweet.

    I would put your blog post in with letter writing; a little more substantive that the (how many characters?) tweet. If only we all wrote letters like Edith Wharton or Hemingway, but as dull and mundane my sent and received letters are, I thoroughly enjoy reading and writing letters far more than any social media platform.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Felicia Baskin May 5, 2016 at 7:19 PM #

      Hi Mary Lynn! I completely agree with you about the negative component of people looking at their phone vs. interacting with one another. I think about that a lot, too, and I don’t think that aspect of it is good. I also hate being at concerts and seeing people so absorbed taking videos, they’re not really watching.

      Yet- I love how social media has kept me in touch with friends scattered all over the world. I am separating social media/connectivity from the situation of being on your phone and constantly checking to see what someone else is doing. I like social media for its reach to either share opinions/ideas/fun content, or to talk to people and see what they’re up to at a broad level. There are a lot of people I like in the world and it makes me happy to sorta kinda of keep in touch!

      I really admire that you write people actual letters- it must feel so special to get one. I do write emails to several close friends, which isn’t the same altogether, but gives us private space to be closer in touch. It’s essentially an ongoing email chain of randomness over time. But you know, I recently found some letters one of my childhood friends and I wrote during a summer apart and it was seriously the sweetest thing! We had cell phones back then so it was sweet to see that we’d taken time to be “pen pals.”


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