Social Media and the Illusion of Friendship

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I am obsessively into following cute little indie shops in Instagram, especially ones with motivational and empowering messages. It’s sort of like a pastime at this point, curating my Instagram feed with quality content and keeping clued in to the makers and masterminds behind the stuff I love. It’s the easiest way to find out about shop updates and follow the trends of brand changes, which (much as I loathe to admit) is relevant to me and my professional goals.

Personal-Branding-Brand.jpgA hasty sketch of my literal worst nightmare. © Primal Digital Marketing

But what happens when social media makes you too accessible?

I had a moment today when I was watching a shop’s live story, hosted by the founder of the shop. She was showing off the new swag they had in their store and there was a handful of people commenting, a few of whom I recognized as contributors to the store’s designs and products. I got excited – I felt like I knew these girls, since I follow them all on social media. I know their faces, their senses of humor, their passion projects, all because they put them online and make themselves accessible to their followers. It was genuinely like hanging out with friends, and I quickly sent in a few cracked jokes between the two members of the shop.

And then the second-guessing kicked in.

What the hell was I doing?

I didn’t really know these people. I felt like I did, since I follow them on some social media platforms and support their business, but they don’t know me. Holy crap, I thought, I must look so lame. I can’t make in-jokes like I’m ‘one of the girls’ because I’m not one of the girls, I’m one of thousands of faceless followers. Social media is oftentimes a two-way mirror, and in this case, I was the one looking voyeuristically through the glass.

A_sad-looking_woma_3160300b.jpgActual photograph of me, waiting on acceptance.  © Telegraph

Yet… is it voyeuristic?

If you put something on a public social media account, you’re giving it to the world. While it’s still your content, you have no control over its reception. It’s a part of yourself that you willingly share, a little piece of yourself that you give out, and understandably people latch onto and relate to these fragments of self.

It’s why celebrity culture has only grown with the advent of social media. Fans feel like they are getting insight into the private lives of these people they admire, and it creates a false sense of kinship without any real connection. It’s not my fault that I feel like Chrissy Teigen and I are best friends, and that Luna and Lucy would make an adorable baby duo. It’s sort of hers, for throwing up all those details of her perfect family online and making it seem like she’s just a DM away.

12063117_176055682736268_2040162239_n_0.jpgJust look at her, draped over a multi-thousand dollar couch and a multi-racial Grammy winner! Our lives are so alike. © Instagram

So in my scenario, I honestly can’t decide if I was the weirdo or not. I definitely looked like a dork, probably, the kid on the fringes excitedly elbowing my way into the circle of Established Friends, making a joke and then waiting excitedly for my validation. But I’m used to being a dork. I’ve long been a dork. I can hardly expect that to change now.

I think the moral of this HTLYT life lesson is simply: don’t feel embarrassed for caring about people you haven’t even met. It’s a sign of empathy, and public figures know what they’re getting into. That being said, probably also remember that they likely don’t know you, and play it cool when commenting on live stories.

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