Fighting Internet Status Anxiety
“We care about our status for a simple reason: because most people tend to be nice to us according to the amount of status we have”
- Alain de Botton
It used to be our house. Or our car. Or our job. Or our new coat. But now it’s so much more. It’s our followers. And our brand. And our feed. It’s our online image.
But it’s all bullshit.
The perfect curation of our online persona is the problem. It’s a product of our own status anxiety. The same thing you are looking at and judging, we are judging as well. Is it good enough? Does it look like I am successful? Do I look pretty enough?
It’s not real. It’s only a small part of us. And it’s not a good part. It’s a part that is hypersensitive to any feedback. Which is silly since we are the ones putting it out there. We photograph and eloquently describe our perfect lives, but then we hide from the feedback. This is why we need to fight internet status anxiety. Because to be happy, we have to win this fight.
The Fallacy of a Following
I read somewhere that book publishers are very concerned, when deciding on your book proposal, with the amount of followers you have on Twitter. So you can do their job for them. So you can promote your new book to your followers. But if your followers outnumber theirs, isn’t something backwards?
People tout their social status in the form of a numerical following, but is it really worth what we think? Sure, those numbers are effective for influencer marketing, but what do they really mean? They don’t mean that 911,356 people like you.
And sometimes it’s the following that’s attractive. Because we are weak humans, guided by comparative algorithms. They see we liked a movie star so they show us another movie star, with a million followers. You might like Chris Pratt too. And we think, a million people must be looking at something. But it’s just a crowd.
The fallacy of a following is in the meaning. It doesn’t mean anything. The people who pay attention to the numbers the most do so because they want to monetize it. They want to turn a percentage of your following into straight cash. Because why else would the numbers matter?
It’s always our ego that wants more. We got to 20,000, so what’s next? How do we get to 50,000? It makes us feel good. Especially the millions of us who aren’t famous. You know, the people who spend all day tweeting in hopes of a retweet that goes viral. Because that’s the thing that is going to immediately fix your life.
It’s our ego that gets hurt when we lose a follower. At least when you have so few that you notice. But when you have a million followers, the ego gets progressively harder and harder to please. It wants what it wants. More. And we start to consider it as part of our societal status.
Maybe it’s just on a certain platform. But it starts to bleed over into life. When you read people’s bios online and they tout the amount of followers they have on a platform, what are they really looking for? A pat on the back for using a bot farm. An acknowledgement that they gamed the system. Or are they just making themselves feel better?
A strong and healthy ego doesn’t obsess about the numbers. That ego is just keeping its head down and doing work. Oblivious to how others choose to act because of it. Because they are winning the fight.
My battle to reduce my internet status anxiety has been going on for quite some time now. If you’ve watched Girl Boss on Netflix and you were a participant in the MySpace era, you probably could relate when Sophia had to move Annie out of her Top 8. For business reasons. My battle has been going on since then. Because I remember how important the Top 8 was.
But that’s when the numbers were meaningful. When Friendster tried to make it harder. And then Facebook came along. And gave us better access to everyone we ever knew. Have to friend my third-grade teacher. And the kid I hated from elementary. And his mom. And my cousin who once told me I was the worst person on Earth. I mean, we’re family. This is internet status anxiety.
The fact that we obsess over whether to friend or add someone is completely asinine. So we go the other way and then think that adding everyone is acceptable. Because the truth behind it is that we expect them all to add us back. But that’s just more disassociated status anxiety.
The battle is against the sites that have stolen us. Our personal brand. Our lives. Our moments.
But the real battle is against ourselves.
Winning the Fight
It’s so much harder to win this fight today. When everyone is taking pictures of their entire lives. When an Instagram Story is how we tell each other what we are doing every second of the day. When companies want the amount of followers we have on our resume. And it’s all such bullshit.
The only way can win this fight is to stop. Don’t get in the ring in the first place. Or understand your place in the internet stratosphere. You are nobody. The majority of the world does not give a shit what you had for dinner. And most of your friends don’t care either. It’s you. It’s me.
We’ve tricked ourselves into thinking that we are doing this for other people. But why would other people really want to know what we are doing at all times? We aren’t famous. Some of our friends don’t even like us. So why are we spending so much time sharing our status?
That’s how we are losing the fight. But we don’t have to. We can start to understand what’s behind it. Insecurity. A need to be liked. A need to be heard.
Until we know what we are really fighting, we will never win the fight.