Why Do You Post to Social Media?

by Leandra Medine
July 24, 2014
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whodoweusesocialmedia

Social media is like a knife, right? It can be used to help nourish/protect you or it can kill you. If you’re pulled in too deep on one side, you might never come out comfortably but maybe if you venture into another, you might find that you’ve been lifted spectacularly. I think this is something that everyone understands, chiefly because we’ve all accrued some form of an opinion on the relationship between man and social media.

It just appears as though these opinions more often reflect the effects of digital communication and much less the cause. As in, why do posters post what they do? There are those who theorize that posting to social media facilitates the popularity contest that is Look at Me and Where I’m Going or moonlights as a stamp of approval or disdain. Others simply demand that they use their various outlets for the purpose of work. But there are those who actually do want to share experience. Unfortunately, I only realized this laterally last month when I was in Montauk and walking through a valley of greens (which incidentally gave me poison ivy) to get to a micro-mountain that overlooks a beach.

When I reached my destination, my knee-jerk reaction was to pull out my phone, take a photo and Instagram it. I remembered that I’d left my phone behind in a bout of rebellion against acting like a slave to my digital alerts. I’d resolved to become — as the clichéd saying goes — one with nature. To enjoy something for the sake of enjoying it, not showing it off, and to experience awe in solidarity.

When I got there, though, I didn’t feel emotionally enlightened or like I was doing a service to myself. I wanted to share. Not for the sake of propelling the popularity contest, or marking my presence at the eastern-most point of Long Island. I wasn’t hungry for likes or considering “the brand,” I just thought the scene was beautiful and I wanted to make people who had never seen it or been there feel like they were part of it too.

Of course, I’m no Angel(ou). Often times I post selfies for inconspicuous outfit validation or at the very least to be able to show off how well (or is it poorly?) I put things together. Sometimes I wonder if when I tweet book recommendations or post news articles on Facebook, I’m sharing knowledge or further outlining an imposed opinion of myself and my interests.

Almost every time I ask myself why I post to social media, I consider how honest I can be with myself. I think I’ve concluded that for the most part, it’s nice to keep a record, the way I used to keep scrap books, of what I was thinking, where I had been, who I was with and definitely what I wore. But the question of whether I would be as adamant about regularly posting if there were no third-party onlookers is presented here too and if I’m being really honest with myself, I don’t think I would be. Would you?

-Leandra Medine, illustration by Charlotte Fassler

REPLIES
  • ee_by_cc

    Oh yeah, being 100% super duper honest myself…likely wouldn’t post as much! Just did an article on this on my blog, I’m fascinated with how much influence Social Media has! http://www.enduringethereal.com/home/2014/7/13/fashionably-social

  • http://dolceandgabriella.wordpress.com Gigi Gastevich

    I don’t think the desire to Instagram a pretty part of my life or tweet something clever is really all that different from my desire to say something funny at a party or contribute something useful to a meeting (or put together a great outfit that I’ll get compliments on.)

    Sharing our best thoughts and experiences for group approval or admiration isn’t a new concept–the only thing that’s changed is the way in which we share them. I wouldn’t feel ashamed of someone laughing at my joke, so why should I feel bad when someone likes a photo I put on Instagram? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with posting to get admiration–we do basically the same thing every time we open our mouth or get dressed in the morning. I’m not ashamed to say I love getting likes.

    Love, Gigi
    Dolce and Gabriella

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    • Very much off the bandwagon

      But what about the view off the mountain/molehill? Is that something that needs to be admired? And if so – what exactly is being admired – the view or the fact that the person posting it saw the view and appreciated the view. I find it sad to think that beautiful mountain views have become something that needs to be shared in order to be enjoyed. Think of the people you look up to throughout history — can you imagine Emily Dickenson posting a picture of her omelette? Or Jackson Pollock posting a picture of his latest pair of shoes? It’s depressing that people care so much about what other people think of their life experiences. And honestly, it’s just uncool.

    • Guest

      Hm. Interesting rationale. I find it curious your (and the majority of other people who have commented) response… “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with posting to get admiration”. When did it become perfectly acceptable for people to actually want and flaunt the fact that a major goal in their lives (indeed, most people spend an exorbitant amount of time on social media) is to seek approval from others? How sad is it that every special or sacred moment we come across in our lives we have to actually see if someone “likes” it to feel like it’s “cool” or “acceptable”. It seems to me that it doesn’t even occur that a life on social media is essentially a life for someone else and a plea for some type of acceptance and approval from “the man”. Perhaps we should focus, instead of simply saying that we want admiration, on why we do so. on the fact that we search for approval from others instead of seeking it internally. Perhaps we are simply a modern society full of incredibly insecure and empty people that must constantly have positive reinforcement and other’s acceptance to feel any sense of being “okay” within our soul. External locus of control, much?

      • Rebekah Q.

        I agree. To be honest, it really surprised me that Leandra, whose blog is founded on the central idea that people should dress for themselves and not for others — to the extent that repelling others with their choices is something to celebrated — would be so dependent on the validation of group experience. Of course the honesty is admirable but the psychology she’s revealing (and which so many people obviously share) is totally depressing to me. Of course there’s always the notion of sharing — and I get that there’s something real there — the drive to share and communicate is what drives a lot of art, great literature, journalism, etc. But to me there’s something almost pathological about being unable to enjoy an experience alone. One other thought — I suspect that the general response here is probably not a totally accurate representation of the general opinion because it’s inherently self-selective. The kind of people who write comments in comment sections are… well, a lot of them are bloggers who comment on everything with the hopes that someone will come take a peek at their blog and their posts and their live and ideally validate them with some comments in the comment section… but beyond that whoever comments is somebody who cares what other people think. Even if they by their very natures are contrarians.

        • http://dolceandgabriella.wordpress.com Gigi Gastevich

          I would guess that, based on the thoughtful responses to this social media post, most commenters are commenting to join an interesting, thought-provoking conversation. Participation, not validation. Give these ladies and gents a little more credit.

          And even if people are looking for validation by posting on social media…who cares? The desire for approval is part of the human condition. We were all narcissists long before Facebook. I say we all just ‘like’ each other’s sunset photos and starbucks-stagrams and move on with our lives.

          • Rebekah Q.

            Hey… Just to be clear, in commenting about commenters I was clearly aware of the fact that I myself was a commenter and therefore admitting (or trying to admit) that I’m not immune to the natural desire to share my perspective with other and people’s response to my perspective. I maintain that the people who comment on blogs are probably more likely to be into social media. And personally – and this is where the negativity probably comes from, I find the way some people comment on everything just to get the name of their blog out there, depressing. It makes their comments feel disingenuous. As for Narcissism, I’m pretty sure you’re using the term loosely rather than as a psychoanalytic personality disorder in the DSM, but even so, I disagree. I don’t believe that human beings have always sought validation the way people do now. I think the fact that we’re physically estranged from each other while interacting mostly via machines (computers/phones) is actually responsible for the void that a lot of people feel and want to fill with the validation not of the people they know well but of random people many of whom they’ve never met and never will. I think it’s really important to distinguish between the people close to us (and maybe that means literally) and the people out there in the ether who we only interact with by exchanging our appreciation of the sunset the other saw. I take your point about taking it easy but I think being aware of the dangers of locating our sense of self outside ourselves is a good idea. I think there’s some validity in the old saw ‘who cares what other people think?’
            PS. I like your sunset.

  • http://www.itscarmen.com ≈ CARMEN ≈

    I usually post to share important news or just day-to-day stuff. I know I like to keep up with my friends & we don’t get to see each other as often. It’s cool that you can just check their Instagram & know that they’ve traveled or had a really yummy looking lunch. Social media is just that, a way to remain social. :] // itsCarmen.com ☼

  • http://www.thecrushworthy.com The Crushworthy

    I usually post neighbourhood specific things to social media. So if a new bakery is opening up or I find something cool in a boutique. Mainly to share with others who may not have come across it yet– I like hunting for cool new finds.
    http://www.thecrushworthy.com

  • http://madamecouture.blogspot.com/ Emma Hager

    I don’t know if I post for this reason, but I must say that Instagram has been a great tool in terms of connecting with people I really admire. It’s a way to share similar aesthetic preferences with those I haven’t yet met in person — or with those I may never meet in person. A great place to bounce ideas off one another.

  • MSCFBeeches

    I would still be adamant about posting, if there were no onlookers. You know how they say a lot of people spend most of their time on Instagram looking at their own feeds? — guilty as charged. Insta is like scrap-booking circa 2014 to me. The posts are like memories and memorabilia (cue the violins, right).

    It’s also like writing a blog nobody reads, but you do it because you think it’s cool and I’ve definitely done plenty of that lol

    mysocalledfashion.com

    • http://alcessa.wordpress.com/ alcessa

      -> blog: doing that right now and loving it (at the end of the day it is my diary and I need a diary so as not to forget and also to simply write and write and write (and to lovingly split infinitives) …

  • Warmleatherette

    I have been asking myself that question lately also. And…I have no answer. I really don’t know what drives me to post on social media. So, I just stopped a few weeks ago. Why does anyone care where the hell I am, or what I’m eating, etc.? If they care, they’ll have to actually TALK to me instead of looking at posts and pictures.
    I do however make an exception for nature.

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  • nay

    I’ve had these thoughts in my mind for so long now. Every time I snap a shot of a pair of shoes that was just dropped off at my door step from Net-A-Porter, I wonder what people would do before Instagram was alive and well and they were excited about a new purchase. Social Media has changed so many peoples lives, it has catapulted careers, (specifically in the fashion industry) and even destroyed some. I probably would not post so much if all of these factors did not play so significantly in society but, I do love Lo-Fi.

    • Milda Nae

      I do feel like it is a lot about sharing. Before social media, I would always send my friends photos of the things I’ve bought etc. And before that, I know others and myself would show friends the things I’ve purchased, for example, when I see them. I think social media just makes it much easier to share with friends, but you also end up sharing with the world, which can be good or bad…

  • http://adeliberateimagination.wordpress.com/ CJKEYS2

    I was at a wedding recently and an old friend from high school said I had the best instagram page, and I told him that was the best compliment I have ever received. Is that pathetic?! I would say 50% of the time I post to make people laugh, 40% when my dog is being the CUTEST THING EVER, and 10% when my hair looks good. But I agree with concept of sharing an experience, Leandra. I never think your posts are “look at me, I’m here and you’re not”, BEYONCE’S ARE SO LIKE THAT, THOUGH. I have been going back and forth with unfollowing her recently.

    Also, does anyone else feel like they have completely separate audiences in facebook, instagram, twitter? Very rarely do I share the same thing on all the outlets. I think my instagram peeps are my favvvvvv.

  • http://shorttermstyle.wordpress.com Jenna Calderone

    I like keeping up with people, so I assume that people enjoy keeping up with me. Also, sometimes I reread my old Tweets and realize that I am fleetingly and sporadically hilarious.

  • http://dfcghbnkmm.com AnnCates

    For me it really just depends on what It is I am sharing. I would like to say that I always post to make others happy, and share experiences. Sadly that is not always the case. For me it’s because I want to build a good reputation for myself. Save my memories. I guess you could say that I am a little selfish, but everyone is. If someone says they purely post to make others happy. It’s majority the time a lie
    Much love, AnnCates xx
    anncates.blogspot.com

  • Nora

    Lately I’ve been using social media as a tool for enlightenment and change. I’ve been trying to raise the profile of humanitarian crisis in Gaza. #onthesideofhumanity #endmoderndayaparthied

  • Hereshoping Themayanswereright

    Leandra, the outfit selfies are welcomed and crucial for fashion bloggers and stylists to do. I follow a small handful of stylists/bloggers for outfit ideas and to see if there are any beautiful items or new designers I missed and need to get. It is never ever annoying to see outfit selfies. I think most people love them!! The annoying selfies are the posed head or body shots where the person is cloyingly trying/expecting to get compliments for their looks alone and not genuinely offering the viewer anything useful.

  • http://www.lifeplus1.me/ Lifeplus1

    This is a surprisingly deep question with a million answers. It really isn’t black and white is it? For example, I tend to think that constant selfies come across as very narcissistic, however, the occasional selfie with a purpose other than to show off a body part, is actually kinda nice.

    Before I started blogging I didn’t use many social media outlets at all. The openness of it scared me, and still does a bit. Now that I blog I use it as a way to connect with likeminded people. Do I use it to promote my blog? Yes, of course. But I’m amazed how many wonderful people I’ve met this way.

    V @ Life+1

  • http://thehannahblog.tumblr.com/ hannah

    I started a sketch/project blog to encourage myself to be creative on a regular basis and force myself out of a creative rut. It also seemed like a good way to meet others online who had similar interests, especially since people in my area don’t think much of my hobbies. It’s worked out somewhat, I’ve met a few cool people.

  • http://www.dominiquecandido.com Dominique

    good question..

    xxxx

    http://www.dominiquecandido.com

  • http://douceurvivre.blogspot.com davinatwong

    I appreciate your honesty! I find myself questioning my intent when it comes to social media as well. It’s a struggle I must say…we want to share an experience, but at the same time we value the validation we receive from others, I feel like it’s a tug of war we’ll never win as long as we’re using social media. However, I think it IS a good thing to search, question and challenge our motives…otherwise, we could very well succumb to the deep pits of narcissism that is so prevalent in our culture today.

  • Cansin

    Well said, I used to instagram on my personal account before I start blogging. It was my daily stuff, funny or bizarre things. But now I am posting to introduce my blog. On the other side of it, I can see the photographs from all over the world. The canyons or mountains or tropical place I have never gone. Anyway, social media is a killer for someone while it is an ego trip for another.

    ashtapot.com

  • http://justlikesushi.com/ Joyce

    Well spoken!

    X

    Joy. | justlikesushi.com |

  • highwaytosunshine

    Probably for 2 weeks ago I started my Instagram account. I know, I am a late bloomer:)
    I just thought it would be exciting to get to know people, who share your interests and to get some inspiration, especially because I love photography.
    And just like I have started Instagram I´ve got lost in hashtags. I suppose, that I exaggerated the difficulty of it to myself. And then I was kind of dissapointed by it. A lot of people post actually not for sharing, but for number of followers and likes.
    And than I thought what if numbers of followers and followed, just like number of friends on Facebook were invisible:) Would it change the reason of posting?

    • Ivy

      That’s why I love tumblr. You may have five hundred thousands follower or just fifty but nothing clearly appears on the blog – well, one can imagine by the number of notes but it’s not immediate at all. In fact you may see that on tumblr almost everyone post about their passion in a passionate and naive way, honest way. It’s like the opposite of Facebook where we post to seek the attention of some specific people we’d like to impress and get feedback from. To provocate the people we don’t like. To make people think such or that about us. We manipulate them, whenever we want them to think we are happy and have them envying us, or make them worried with our simulated depression.

      Another think that keeps us posting and posting and posting is the almos total lack of an immediate negative feedback. Plain and simple, we only have like button. On Instagram too. If we were faced with the dislike the nature of our posting would be. Completely different.

      I don’t think any of us would still post in the same manner, with the same frequency if we had 30 dislikes and 50 likes. Not having the clear “negativity” is something that keeps us sticking with those. And Facebook would never ever introduce that. Even YouTube few days ago introduced the suppression of votes for comments, because some people wouldn’t post anymore comments after getting too many down votes. We are mostly safe and deceived. Yes of course there are comments, which can be rude and arsh, but only we read them. The watchers do not have the impression of the negative comments we may get, as they get lost between the others. But a red bar of negative markdowns would change everything.

      Would we post if we had thousands of dislikes? I don’t think so. But those dislike would be the real truth. Consider that when we get 50 likes and we have 250 friends, maybe 70 would have lovely pressed the dislike button.

  • serly

    i’m not do this too much , sometime people need attention i think
    warm regards serly
    jam tangan pria

  • Misha

    Wow…..I read this and I almost feel like I am writing this article because everything that you have written is so true. I look at so many instagram updates that I feel are not serving any real goal other than other than fulfilling their a moral obligation to share what they are doing with the entire world.However somehow I am never able to do this…..I always try to ask myself why am I putting this on social media- Does it have any social context,does it mean anything to me or I am just doing it for the sake of it.
    Yes social media is to share, a way to keep a scrap book for all the memories but we need to remember that if we try to catalog eveything from our daily lives then the charm of clicking those important moments and saving them would be lost in a sea of day to day picutres that would not mean anything to us in a few years.

  • Emma

    I definitely agree that it can be kind of like a scrap book and your own personal account to look back on. My early instagrams (when none of my friends had it) are all so different from my grams of today: just an out-of-order account of moving to Boston into my best friends house. I kind of miss that so I made a tumblr for pictures that I love but wouldn’t post-like randoms of my really clean room, trying on wedding dresses, my bf making dinner/sleeping/being so cute I made them black and white…:)

  • Kristen

    This is so relevant and just so TRUE. I deleted my Instagram app because I’m so addicted to it that it’s bad for me. I also created another Instagram account, one that no one knows exists (except my sister), and I just post whatever shit I want to because I want to, 8 pictures in a row of random crap like past vacations and other stuff because nobody’s going to judge me/it. It does kind of hurt when nobody/only one person aka my sister likes those other pictures, but at the same time I accept the non-likes because of the judgement I don’t receive from other teenage girls my age.

  • Inside You

    just keep popular on socmed with friends and whoever read the status desain ruang tengah