On the Psychology of Friendship and Social Media – by Cedar Sanderson


On the Psychology of Friendship and Social Media – by Cedar Sanderson

I ran across a paper the other day about the correlation of social media and self-esteem. The study was conducted on people who posted a photo, and how they felt when it got a lot of ‘likes’ versus few or none. The results were not terribly surprising, but still interesting when teased out into a statistical analysis of the human reactions to one another. The takeaway from the paper: “we also predicted that having a sense of purpose in life – or a “self-organizing life aim that organizes and stimulates goals, manages behaviors, and provides a sense of meaning” would moderate the effect of likes on self-esteem.”

So, having a purposeful life means that one’s self-esteem is less contingent on external validation. Not that the external validation of one’s social media connections ‘liking’ one’s curated glimpses into one’s life means much. Unpacking this more, we start to see that a ‘like’ or even the slightly more effort of choosing an emoji that more nearly conveys a real reaction to a photo, is worth something only if we consider that the viewer could have scrolled on by without the reflexive tiny ‘click’ of a mouse. So little energy, so little time… and yet we give that power. We crave the flood of validation and the emotional rush it delivers to our brains, so we spend far more time and energy on creating just the right photo for our social media connections to get the maximum possible reactions to it. There are people who make a career out of this. It’s not hard to prove my point – google ‘Instagram Husbands’ for ridiculous articles about the travails of the man behind the camera catering to his needy partner while she poses and pouts.

But that’s an extreme example. And, by reading through the study of how people reacted to the validation via social media, we see that not everyone succumbs to the temptation to become an attention whore. Some can find validation through their own selves, by living a goal-oriented life. One presumes that their self-esteem is thus supported by meeting goals, which makes them feel good, and they challenge themselves not by composing the perfect photo or status post, but by setting new goals that have measurable results in the real world.

So why does this work? “individuals’ self-esteem was responsive to evidence of one’s value to others, even in virtual environments” Humans like to feel needed, to feel as though they bring something of value to the table in a relationship, even one as attenuated as social media connection online alone. When an individual sees the likes pile up, they believe they have made someone else out there happy, and in return their reward/pleasure center of the brain is stimulated. Even in person, friendships have this value-reward attached to them. If one of the friends perceives that they have no value to the other friend (or to a group of friends) their self-esteem takes a hit, and their connection to the other person weakens or fails entirely. So the social media study is, really, a snapshot of how we interact with friends. It would be absurd to say that someone who only ever ‘likes’ a social media status is a friend, but yet in a friendship, with no validation, the relationship is eroded.

Self-validation sounds like a perfect solution. You don’t need anyone. You’ve mastered the art of feeling good about yourself. You set goals, and you meet them, and you set harder goals and meet those, too. You’re the king of the world! If you tell yourself that you’re doing great, you believe you.

I don’t know about you, but I have trouble doing that. My internal dialogue has a lot more sarcasm and despair than perkiness and optimism. I enjoy seeing a photo get likes, but it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t (although I will admit to more than a little feeling of irritation that FB chooses to hide content via their algorithms since they want to get paid more than to let me show off my work. Well, duh.). What matters to me, deeply, is what my friends think about the purpose of my life, the internal goals I am driven by, and my value to some few humans on the face of this earth who matter to me. Because they can’t all matter, except in abstract.

That’s not a mean thing to say. “But the People! Teh Global Community!” Um, no, not really. I don’t know all those people. While they matter in the abstract sense of humanity, and yes, humanity does matter to me because people are individually pretty amazing and cool and I usually like folks once I get to meet them and know them… but they aren’t my friends until that happens. My self-esteem and valuation of my contribution to society is unruffled as long as those who form my social circle like me. And maybe like my photos, too.

How many people can really matter to us? I’ve seen numbers that vary anywhere from 300, to 9. The numbers tend to go down with age – the nine came from a study of people aged 50+ – an artifact of reduced external context (active workplaces, social interactions, loss of friends and family to death, and lessened need for external validation). I came across a concept I rather like, metaphorically speaking of our relationships with the social circle as being like a convoy. The term in the paperused to evoke the image of a protective layer, in this case, of family and friends, who surround the individual and help in the successful negotiation of life’s challenges. Each person can be thought of as moving through life surrounded by a group of other people to whom he or she is related through the exchange of social support.”

Or, since one of the few movies I can remember curling up with my Dad to watch, in the era when we had a CB radio, was Convoy… I think of it as each truck being a person (and my mental image comes from another movie, one I watched with my kids: Cars). Sometimes they travel together, chatting on the radio, and other times some of the group peels off to drive down different paths. They wouldn’t be traveling together if they weren’t providing support to one another, even if all that is is a friendly voice on the radio keeping you from falling asleep at the wheel. Sometimes maybe the support is more tangible – like help changing a flat tire. Sometimes you need help, sometimes they do. It’s a network of caring that gives us the validation externally we can’t always manage internally, to come back to my original premise.

It’s not that self-esteem is the be-all and end-all. Feeling good about oneself no matter what isn’t the point of life. There’s time when life sucks, and our internal dialogue does, too. With a purpose to work toward – be that our daily work, our family, or more complex desires to leave the world a better place for our having been in it – we’ll experience less desire for ‘likes’ than if we lack an internal compass that is pointing us in the direction of our goals. All of us, however, lose that direction from time to time. Grief, stress, fatigue, there are so many reasons that our needle starts to spin aimlessly. For those times, traveling with that convoy of friends really means support is near at hand. Self-validation means that those friends will be there: the instagrammer will find that when their pouts turn to real sadness, the shallow ‘likers’ are long gone on to the next fun photo in their feed. But the true friends, the ones who are always there, they give a shoulder to cry on. It can’t be all crying all the time, or the convoy breaks up because ‘man, take that thing into a garage and get it fixed!’ It’s a relationship. It’s back-and-forth, sometimes you need a hand up, and sometimes they do. Without self-validation, you can’t have true friendship.

And without self-validation, we’d be less able to survive the death of friendship. Not a physical death: the convoy metaphor has the trucks veering off a shared path for many reasons. Lack of mutual support, a need to deliver goods to another location (moving, job changes, slow decrease in communication from daily chatting to the occasional ‘like’ on a photo), a breakdown that can’t be helped with (be that mental or physical – some people push everyone away when they are in pain). I have lost touch with many friends, for many reasons, on the road of life. I’ve formed permanent bonds with relatively few, partly because I’m an Odd and partly because of my odd upbringing (although it is certainly arguable that I’m an Odd because I was brought up oddly). We moved a lot when I was a kid. Even with the rise of the internet and the explosive growth of social media that allow us to be more connected in more ways to more people in more places than at any previous time in history, if you don’t have the ability to sit down in person and re-form the bonds from time to time, friendships fade. That’s part of the reason that most long-distance romantic relationships fail to thrive. Even though I’m in one of the few rare exceptions, I’ll be the first to say that had I not been impetuous enough to trust him and make a long visit, we would never have been more than online friends with no real romance between us.

When a friendship dies, sometimes we’re left sitting on the curb wondering ‘was it something I did? Was it something I didn’t do, or say, or…?’ and without the ability to self-validate, we might find ourselves stuck there, unable to form new bonds out of fear of what happens when those bonds break. It’s like rubber bands stretched tight…if you don’t let go, it’s going to break, snap back, and hit you in the face, and that hurts. Having enough self-confidence to let go and carry on alone is crucial to long-term mental health and survival. Taking the risks to reach out despite fear of the immediate (rejection) or the future (death) means the ability to form new friendships. To maintain old ones that have been fading. Or to know when it’s time to let go, and travel with the diminished convoy, talking over the radio and stopping to help fix a busted whatchamajigger. Life doesn’t stop when we want to cry. Life doesn’t like all our photos the same. Life just keeps going, and if we stay focused on the horizon of our purposes in life, we can keep going, too. Look down at your phone all the time to monitor your social media, and you’ll be ‘most likely to get wiped out in the crosswalk.’


Akiyama and Antonucci, Journal of Gerontology, 1987: Social Networks in Adult Life and a Preliminary Examination of the Convoy Model

  1. Andreassen et. al., Addictive Behaviors, 2017: The relationship between addictive use of social media, narcissism, and self-esteem: Findings from a large national survey
  2. Burrow and Rainone, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 2017: How many likes did I get?: Purpose moderates links between positive social media feedback and self-esteem.






141 thoughts on “On the Psychology of Friendship and Social Media – by Cedar Sanderson

  1. I noticed the frantic waiting for likes from posts on Facebook a few months ago. I also noticed that I was spending far too much time on there. Once I realized that it was sucking my time and energy I stepped back for a few weeks. Now, I check things out maybe once a week for a few minutes then close things up.
    I don’t care anymore how many people are paying attention to me. I will keep it going for good friends and family. Other then that….
    A corollary, is the waiting for hits on blog posts and tracking the stats. Doesn’t help that I like crunching numbers from time to time.

    1. I read somewhere last week that Facebook delays ‘likes’ from appearing on your posts to manipulate people and make them hang around longer. I dont use any social media but it sounds like people wait for ‘likes’ to appear before they sign off and do something else, so Facebook purposely withholds validation people looking for.

      1. I read, somewhile ago (Whoa! 2014??? How Time flees!), about Facebook deliberately engaging in experimentation with manipulating algorithms, news feeds and likes.

        What? A bunch of poncy self-proclaimed geniuses engaging in deliberate manipulation of masses of people without their knowledge nor consent? Unthinkable!

        Facebook’s Unethical Experiment
        It intentionally manipulated users’ emotions without their knowledge.
        Facebook has been experimenting on us. A new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that Facebook intentionally manipulated the news feeds of almost 700,000 users in order to study “emotional contagion through social networks.”

        The researchers, who are affiliated with Facebook, Cornell, and the University of California–San Francisco, tested whether reducing the number of positive messages people saw made those people less likely to post positive content themselves. The same went for negative messages: Would scrubbing posts with sad or angry words from someone’s Facebook feed make that person write fewer gloomy updates?

        They tweaked the algorithm by which Facebook sweeps posts into members’ news feeds, using a program to analyze whether any given textual snippet contained positive or negative words. Some people were fed primarily neutral to happy information from their friends; others, primarily neutral to sad. Then everyone’s subsequent posts were evaluated for affective meanings.

        [END EXCERPT]

        It doesn’t require much pondering to consider how such manipulation might be monetized or otherwise effected to achieve an objective, such as, ohhhhhh, depressing a segment of the public heading into an election …

          1. Nothing wrong with a deeply cynical company, provided it doesn’t actively lie to people. I domtend to prefer the other sort, the company created by someone who still cares how its behavior makes him look, but with inheritance taxed the way it is, we tend to get companies run by suits. Now if they are cynical and SMART, they make sure their company doesn’t come across like a bunch of pus bags.

            Sadly, too many of them aren’t smart. And too many people who still control the companies they created look around them and copy the bahavior of the companies around them.

            1. There was a phrase I heard in reference to the Eaton family here in Canada, “One generation to grow a business, the second generation to maintain it, and the third generation to lose it”. Eaton’s is no longer a business bought by Sears, and gone.

              1. Heck, Sears is barely Sears anymore, either, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were gone in far less than another generation. Last time I went into a Sears they were so understaffed I had to wait 30+ minutes for the one salesman in the 5000+ square foot section to help me, and then he told me despite it being in stock, I’d need to either stop back another day to pick the item up or drive to the warehouse 20+ miles away in Middletown (which had already closed for the evening). Lame.

                1. Sears Canada is dead. Bankruptcy closeout sales were on last year and caused a massive stink with markups on “discounted” items. Sad that a company that made it’s business through catalog sales couldn’t make the leap to be the current Amazon.

              2. I never thought I would see Woolworths and Sears die. Now Kmart (which used to be Kersge’s, sorta like Woolworths) is in trouble too. Males me worry about Walmart; what the hell will we do with all those huge buildings if it goes under? We don’t NEED that many roller-rinks.

                  1. I suspect you’re referring to the recent closings of WMs and Sam’s Club’s which are being turned into shipping warehouses ala Amazon.

                  2. Oh hey, a subject that touches on my professional interests. I’m currently trying to persuade my co-workers to try a programming language called F#. Why do I mention that? Because at many recent F# conferences, there have been presentations from a company called Jet, who wrote the software that powers Walmart’s online shopping site. There’s some serious cleverness that they’ve mentioned bits and pieces of, like the method they use to optimize shipping your order to you. (Inputs into the formula: number of warehouses that have one of the items you ordered, distance of the warehouses from the place you want to pick up the order, and various similar factors. Output from the formula: truck #7 should pick up item #12345 from warehouse #43 and deliver it to store #345.)

                    I can’t speak to their business practices since I lack knowledge, but if the rest of the programmers at Jet are as competent as the ones I saw speak, Walmart’s online shopping system should be quite well run.

                    1. I know that in theory their site is like Sears– mostly for physical store pickup, offers stuff from other sellers, etc.

                      In practice, WalMart actually has sane prices– you’re not paying 10% over mall prices– and the results make sense for what you searched for, even if it’s not a match. (Contrast searching for “toddler avenger socks” and getting an expensive wrist-watch with no media tie-in.)

                    2. Robin, Walmart’s website has a glaring flaw which seems to be common among brick and mortar retailers trying to do e-commerce: there are about half of the products in the list of things they sell that are not being shown for sale on the on-line website, and there are no obvious reasons for not having them there (perishable, fragile, etc.) In Wal-Mart’s case, it’s particularly obvious, since they have items that are available for ordering for in-store pickup or home delivery that are not shown on the “grocery pickup” portion of the website.

                      The idea seems to be that “we want you to come into our stores so you’ll impulse buy as you walk through, so we’ll try and force you to do that.” Amazon hasn’t had that problem, and it will be interesting to see if they develop it now that they are moving into brick and mortar.

                    3. I don’t use their grocery option, so I haven’t eyeballed it– are they the ones sold by WalMart?

                      Frequently identifiable by not being available for “same day pickup” and then you look at the fine print and it says “sold by ____”?

                1. Up here in Canada we have no more low cost department stores except Walmart. They are doing well. We used to have Woolworths (closed over 30 years ago now), K-mart (twenty years ago I think), and Zellers (closed ten years ago). Target tried to fill the vacuum of low end retail and died a quick death when people up here realized it was expensive cheap crap.
                  It would take some epic mismanagement for Walmart to really fail and fold.

                  1. some of the Walton family are trying for that Serious Mismanagement thing, but they seem to have periodic shake-ups and straighten out some, so who knows.

                    1. The chain seems particularly responsive to market feedback. They went aggressively “Green” for a while, although they did it in intelligent, cost-shaving ways, and a couple years ago they apparently tried to upgrade their image to better compete with Target, but quickly reversed course when their base made it clear that had they wanted Target they knew where to find it.

                    2. I used to deal with WalMart Air. I’ll give them that, they could have had very fancy jets, but mostly they had mid-range King Airs (Nice Turboprop Beech planes I think they had two of them or upgraded one to a slightly newer one) and one Cessna Citation jet that I think they had just upgraded right before I quit working at the airport. The upgrade was not a top of the line either.

                2. Sears owns Kmart. The local Kmart is one of the few still alive in the area (heh, North America might be the area) and the local mini Sears (mainly an outlet for lawn mowers and appliances) had a big sign saying “We’re not closing! Come on in!”
                  The irony of Sears is a company that came to power by selling things, widely varied things, to people who couldn’t, or wouldn’t go into stores to purchase such, is claiming a company that sells things, widely varied things, without need of going into a store for purchase, is causing them to go out of business. They have forgotten how to do original business plan or a modern version thereof.
                  JC Penny closed here last year, as we gained a Kohl’s (not opened yet idt), and a TJMax (never been in either) and they are/were in a “Roll Left and Die” mode.
                  Mom would go there, although, after having a few bad experiences, tapered off but still went in from time to time. Then they had some commercial that enraged her enough to call them and let them know she’d never set foot in the place again. Seems she was not alone as it races into oblivion.
                  WalMart is making an attempt at doing an amazon type of thing, but so far I find their site more annoying than helpful the few times I looked at it.

                  1. In re: TJMax.

                    If memory serves (and doesn’t spill the drinks again) TJMax originated as a department and eventually an offshoot of the Zayre department store chain, a competitor of KMart. A quick Wiki-check provides this:

                    Zayre was a chain of discount stores that operated in the eastern half of the United States from 1956 to 1990. The company’s headquarters was in Framingham, Massachusetts. In October 1988, Zayre’s parent company, Zayre Corp., sold the stores to the competing Ames Department Stores, Inc. chain, and in June 1989, Zayre Corp. merged with one of its subsidiaries, The TJX Companies, parent company of T.J. Maxx. A number of stores retained the Zayre name until 1990, by which time all stores were either closed or converted into Ames stores. (The TJX Companies, which also owns Marshalls, HomeGoods, and Sierra Trading Post, is still in operation as of 2017.)

                    Zayre’s origins go back to 1919 when brothers Max and Morris Feldberg founded the New England Trading Company in Boston, Massachusetts. An underwear and hosiery wholesaler, the company began as a supplier to full-line department stores and specialty shops. Ten years later, the brothers launched their first retail operation, Bell Hosiery Shops (later shortened to “Bell Shops”). Within a few years, Bell Shops expanded beyond underwear and hosiery into full-blown women’s specialty stores, competing with such chains as Lerner Shops and Three Sisters. By the end of World War II, there were nearly 30 Bell Shops in the New England area. In 1946, the company doubled its number of stores with its buyout of New York City-based Nugents, another women’s specialty store chain, similar in approach to that of Bell Shops. With its store base in New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., Nugents was a natural extension of the company’s market area with almost no overlap.


                    Gracious – I had no idea! I’d thought Zayre’s long since shut down and TJMax the mere remnant. And further reading reveals that the chain’s name derives from the Yiddische expression, Zehr gut!

                    Does anybody know whether there remain any of the “Catalog Stores” that were so popular in the Seventies and Eighties? They had showrooms where you could examine the goods (mostly electronics, furniture, jewelry and luggage, as I recall), with catalogs which you would use to place your order. Once ordered and paid for the goods would be delivered from the warehouse into a pick-up area and carried off by the customer. I confess I never grasped the attraction nor the methodology but such stores were briefly ubiquitous, or so it seemed.

                    1. Does anybody know whether there remain any of the “Catalog Stores” that were so popular in the Seventies and Eighties? They had showrooms where you could examine the goods (mostly electronics, furniture, jewelry and luggage, as I recall), with catalogs which you would use to place your order.
                      There used to be a company here called “Consumers Distributing”. Think they closed down, or went bankrupt around 1997 I think. Purchased my wedding rings from there in 1995. Was a budget brand place that you could get almost anything it seemed.

                    2. I recall Circuit City in Kenner, La. was sorta like a catalog store, a rather small showroom and the rest of the building was warehouse space, and the only time I was ever in there for a purchase it was not me buying. I was just hauling it and the buyer around. Didn’t see any price advantage (the buyer was a “It’s gotta be a GE!” and CC was the only place who had what ever it was. TV i think) and it took twice as long as dealing with Best Buy, Comp USA, or whoever else was around then. I know that from opening, to when they shut down, I never once found what I needed or I found a better deal elsewhere. Can’t imagine why they shut down.

                    3. Circuit City had the lousiest service I have EVER had to deal with. They are the ONLY supplier I can remember who was thrown off of an Air Force contract (supplying / servicing appliances for base housing on Maxwell AFB) and barred from bidding on any other contracts.

                    4. Contract: all appliance service requests will be responded to in 24 hours.
                      Actual: over half not responded to within a week. This is for things like leaking dishwashers, gas stoves, etc.

                    5. Well, there was my own experience as a civvie: It took them 4 weeks to deal with a freon leak in my refrigerator, they were having to bring in repair techs from Birmingham and Atlanta because they had none in town, and they ended up (after being threatened with a lawsuit) honoring the “replace” portion of the warranty because their attempt to repair the leak ended up soldering the freon tubing shut.

                  2. My aunt ran the…whatever you called “the place that Sears would ship stuff that folks ordered from the catalog when you don’t live anywhere near a Sears store” for her little town.

                    They had enough little old ladies and mom-types coming in that it was a major boost to her photography shop. (Developing home photos, not aaaaaaht.)

                    Sears decided to shut it down, then were shocked that hurt sales even more…..

                    1. Sears could save itself—maybe even now it’s not too late—by opening many such small locations: customer buys large home appliances online, and folks from the local mini-Sears are there for installation and support.

                  3. More to the point, Sears mainstay for much of their early life was catalog sales, which should have easily transferred to the on-line sales world. Instead, they massively dropped the ball.

  2. Self-validation sounds like a perfect solution. You don’t need anyone. You’ve mastered the art of feeling good about yourself. You set goals, and you meet them, and you set harder goals and meet those, too. You’re the king of the world! If you tell yourself that you’re doing great, you believe you.

    ….sounds like someone who’s kinda psycho, actually…or good at lying to themselves.

    Need balance between the two.

      1. I don’t entirely trust myself, either. Nor do I trust anyone else, and certainly not the kind of folk who hangout on the internet.

              1. Surprisingly, it’s more about acknowledging Reality than many suspect or care to admit. All those who don’t/won’t/can’t believe (in) you? Well… that’s simply because you’re mythical. Welcome.

                  1. Parents seem to be approaching general mythicality, though might never actually arrive. Consider the claim, “Too many people with children; too few parents.”

      2. I worse than don’t trust myself– I know me, so I know better than to absolutely trust my judgement!

        One of the reasons I married my husband is because, while he’s not perfect, his judgement on my current state of mind is far more accurate than mine is.

    1. Eh, there’s also spiritual validation, which usually gets lumped under self-validation. As in “I am, to the best of my understanding, following the rules my G-d has set out for me. And he loves me, even when the world doesn’t. In fact, the world will hate my following my moral code, but they don’t matter compared to the state of my soul and my place in heaven. Even when I fall short, I’ll confess and do better – regular prayer keeps a soul healthy.”

      Because checking with The Man Upstairs isn’t easily validated by scientists, especially if they don’t believe, then it looks like the person is just reassuring themselves.

    2. Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god.
      ― Aristotle

  3. I think Facebook is deliberately addictive, and deliberately makes some other choices that also have the effect of dysfunctional influence on the user.

    I’m told the Linked In account is useful to essential in getting a job. I’m not really active on it.

    I’m fairly certain the time reading and commenting on blogs is more than optimal.

    I do my internet business from a computer, never from a smart phone. I do so because I am a luddite and paranoid about security, but it is also smart in terms of self destructive behavior harming productivity.

    For impact on quality of life, internet really does seem to fall short of sound and healthy decision making in real life.

    1. Contrariwise, I actually think the internet, and social media, can be a very useful tool for friendship and personal growth. But like pretty much everything else, moderation is a must.

      1. They can be useful in the right amounts. But I’ve found that I had a huge increase in personal happiness when I finally got organized in addressing my goals in real life. Over that time, internet and social media was the same or maybe decreased.

        Thinking more carefully, it is quite likely that y’all were a positive influence on me, and helped me keep going through some rough patches.

        As an experiment to measure relative values, my life is badly designed.

        1. The real issue for me is that I’m at a stage of life where social media is often my only non-family contact. That’s an artifact of a couple of things—one, that many of my friends have small children and are tied to their needs; two, that many of my friends are working during the days when I am dealing with said small children alone, and are only home during those times when I need to be dealing with the school/activities/homework with the older ones; and three, that a lot of my friends live in other states (because I’ve had to move several times.) (There’s also the fact that I tend to make a lot of introvert friends. Oops.)

          It’s a bit depressing, but it’s often the choice between the slightly toxic social media and nothing at all.

          1. I’m the same way. Between family, work, and having moved. So I left what little social circle I had behind, I have no in-person friends currently. So I am reliant on social media to keep in touch with family and friends. It is great, but sometimes it sucks.

            1. I recently described it as an internet hydra. Two of the heads are loved ones and news that is actually informative or cool, but they randomly switch with the other heads, so you can’t just cut off the bad ones and burn the stumps.

                  1. I agree with that. I no longer “follow” the Squire’s aunts because weapon grade craxy. SMH *looks back on vaccine causes autism posts from one…..*

                    1. It doesn’t even have to be crazy. I have one relative who keeps sending me political posts in private messages, and it’s all the meme-level stuff, not anything in-depth. I wouldn’t like that if I agreed with it, let alone if I don’t.

                      P.S. I also dislike that I can’t say “I distrust the news” without people thinking I’m some conspiracy nut. I haven’t trusted large-scale news for literal decades—since I got my degree in broadcast studies, and saw firsthand how incredibly easy it is to get stuff very wrong, even with the best of intentions. And put in motivations that recent times have pushed, like the fact that you have to publish NOW if you want to get paid ever, and you have a recipe for misinformation.

                    2. I’m so old I remember when Lefties distrusted the news …

                      … and considered the FBI a threat to our Civil Rights.

        2. I think the key is “the right amounts.” For those people with a mature sense of self and decent internal validation systems, the ‘Net is a useful place and we can make friends while keeping priorities straight. I miss hanging out here when I don’t have ‘Net access, but it’s not the end of the world and it doesn’t affect my self image. For those who grew up in a digital fishbowl, or who must have external validation constantly for whatever reason, it is at best a crutch and at worst a toxic environment*.

          *Thinking of the teens and children who have been driven to self-harm and suicide because of pressures exerted via the ‘Net. And probably adults, but they don’t make the news as often.

          1. Same with me. The net is a lovely place where I can chat with you lovely folks who I consider ‘my people’ but when RL gets busy and I don’t have a lot of time, it’s not difficult to step back. I end up missing very interesting conversations that way, but since I know one has to have priorities straight, this does not ‘hurt me.’

            I have to admit that I don’t understand the reasons of ‘online opinion’ being why someone is driven to self harm and suicide. I’ve had personal attacks and mobs come after me before (some were crowdsourced by misrepresenting or outright lying about what I’ve said), and it hurt emotionally, but not enough to make me want to open veins or eat bullets or hang myself – it’s usually the sign of “well, not going there again” or ‘that person is poison, block.’

            I think that might be why the cyberbullies and sjzs (but I repeat myself) have escalated to going after people’s livelihoods and work and family. They couldn’t get to the people who simply blocked and ignored them. These people need their victim to suffer and hurt, no matter what. And that’s pure evil and malice.

            1. In the long long ago when I studied things like Cultural Anthropology and Sociology (shortly before both went off the rails intellectually but I swear, ossifer, I dint have nothin’ to do with it, I was totally SOCMOB when it happened!) one of the factors to be considered was the direction of aggression, inward vs outward. I think those are now incorporated into Shame/Honor Cultures, but that’s just a guess.

              But the analytical framework is useful for understanding why “ the reasons of ‘online opinion’ being why someone is driven to self harm and suicide.” For the individuals whose aggression is inwardly focused, being pursued by a mob is cause for suicide while for the outwardly focused aggression tends to result in the pursued attacking the mob, whether actually or psychologically (e.g., “Awwww, what does that bunch of a**holes know?”) In either case, of course, we are talking about the extremes, the three-standard-deviations responses.

              This is why the MSM focuses on such instances, and why basing public policy on such out-of-the-norm behaviours is problematic. The more proper focus for policy crafters might be the factors which create and reinforce such mobs and justifies their conducting of virtual (and real) lynchings.

              For that matter, I wonder some clever Sociology grad student has not drawn the connections between lynch mobs of the prior century and their online equivalent of today.

              1. Not a soc student nor in grad school, but I have certainly drawn those parallels in some of my articles. Tim Hunt leaps immediately to mind, for example. Also, comet shirt guy.

                1. Yes, likewise. Flash (lynch) mobs that get whipped up, go after someone, and then are redirected to attack the next target. And if the chosen target either fights back, or flashes the Hawaiian Peace Sign and slams the door on their noses, the mob falls apart in disarray, often turning on itself.

              2. Hmmm. That’s probably a good POV.

                It’s been observed by the men around me that I blame myself heavily for things that are literally not in my control – such as the death of my two babies, for example- in the ‘I could have done this’ or ‘I shouldn’t have slept’.

                For when the mobs come after me, I’ve never blamed myself because I’ve always known what actions I’ve taken and what my responsibilities are – foisted on ‘blame’ doesn’t work on me.

      2. I wonder about social media – is there a male/female divide on how useful facebook/instagram is?

        All women in my life, and there are at least thirty, they are all on facebook and constantly communicating with their friends and family multiple times a week. The males I know are split between no social media at all, like me, or they use it reluctantly to keep in touch with a few friends and family. My partner is constantly telling me what my extended family are doing while I am more about benign neglect.

        Now I think about it, maybe it is older males, over 40 say, who get twitchy while on facebook, the younger lads handle it much better. My teenage nephew seems to enjoy it, he spends much time talking and laughing online.

          1. Yes, that’s what I was thinking as well. Social media has been a boon to females who are keen to keep in touch with family and friends.

            1. In this era of mobility, families are often scattered far and wide – sometimes across the globe. I know mine is. It would mean I lost touch entirely, if it were not for my mommy blog (which is now my writing blog, several iterations later) and later, facebook and other social media.

      3. One of the good things about FB is that I have gotten in contact with a lot of distant cousins (distance not relation) and can communicate with them and see their lives. Being the eldest of all of them makes it a joy (my youngest cousin entered post secondary a couple years ago and I turn 50 this year). Upsides and downsides.

  4. Golly, care about whether some random ‘bot stranger thought a picture of me was pleasing to observe? I don’t think so. My contempt for the majority of my species effectively moderates against such concerns.

    However …

    This points to a major factor in religious faith. It provides not just membership in a community but also, for some religions, a validation which is external and eternal.

        1. All us canids, on the other paw, have been relatively up front, especially as the “On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog” meme was to successful early on – we started that one as mindspace preparation for the coming uplift revelations.

          1. Uplift? What, the dogs are finally going to fix humanity’s manifest flaws?

            Frankly, I’ve been afraid they were going to give up on us, and move on to another species with more potential and better behavior. Cockroaches, maybe…

            We joke, but I’d be willing to bet good money that the human/dog partnership has at least as much to do with dogs domesticating us for our ability to throw things and perform really effective belly rubs and ear scritches… Do note that the Neanderthalers appear to have been without canine partners, and that they’re effectively extinct. I think those two bits of data might, just might, be related.

            1. Do note that the Neanderthalers appear to have been without canine partners, and that they’re effectively extinct. I think those two bits of data might, just might, be related.
              Alas timelines don’t mesh with that theory. Dogs were probably first domesticated about 15,000 years ago. about 5 to 10 thousand years after the neanderthals became extinct. Nice idea though.

              1. The conventional wisdom is constantly changing:


                There’s some reason to believe that the dog/human relationship goes back at least as far as 38,000 years ago. The neotenous characteristics of the skull found at Goyet would tend to support arguments that the relationship had been going on long enough at that point to be reflected in the bones of that specific animal, and from that, one might presume that the process had gone on for one hell of a lot longer than just a few generations at that point, given the likely informal nature of the domestication process on both sides of the equation.

                With dogs, I think we may want to consider the possibility that it wasn’t so much a “domestication” as a “habituation” to each other’s specific skill sets. We borrowed their noses, barks, and higher pursuit speeds during the closing period of the hunt, and they got our tool use, hands, and ability to throw things for them. The Neanderthalers may have lost out on the opportunity because they apparently weren’t that good at throwing things, and since dogs really, really like to play…

                It tickles the funny bone, but I’d be willing to bet good money that there is at least some truth to the whole idea of it all being a two-way street.

                Dogs are not stupid, and they are pack animals. It may well be that they thought they were adopting pack members with special skills, and if you’ve ever observed the process by which dogs train and habituate humans to do what they want…? Well, you start to wonder just who the hell is domesticating whom.

                I’ve watched our Border Collie work patiently with toddlers, teaching them to throw things for her, and it’s extremely obvious what she’s doing, once you start paying attention to her doing it.

                And, she rewards the kids that respond to her with attention, affection, and overwatch. The kids that don’t want to play with her, and throw stuff for her? She’ll happily let them wander into the street; the ones that throw? She’s careful to ensure that they never get out of “her yard”, or have anything bad happen to them. I don’t think it’s that much of a reach to hypothesize that similar things may have happened during our early days with the dog, and the kids who bonded with the dogs benefited at least as much as the dogs did… Which probably enhanced their chances of survival.

                We ever figure out how to actually “talk to the dog”, as a species? I’m not going to be surprised at all if we find out some interesting things about our own species, and how we came to be what we are. The canine perspective on our relationship may not be the one we think it is.

    1. Except that if it’s a picture on Facebook, it’s not a random stranger. It’s someone that you’ve told Facebook is a “friend”. That doesn’t guarantee that the person is an actual friend (I know plenty of people that have ridiculous numbers of “friends” on Facebook). But you’ve told Facebook that they are. So you probably have some sort of real world relationship with them (even if that relationship is “met the person once, and decided that you’d like to keep an eye on their feed).

      That assumes, of course, that you’ve got your privacy settings configured in such a way that random people can’t just drop in and check your feed (which is the smart and safe thing to do).

  5. Validation for us old farts is NOT being in the obits. I could give a s**t less what people like or dislike about what I post, either on the blog or the book of face. I know who I am, what I can do, and have a circle of friends (small though it is), that will call me down in a heartbeat if I start putting on airs.

  6. Gimme an “N”, gimme an “O”, gimme a “T-H-I”!
    Gimme an “L”, gimme an “L”, gimme an “A-R-Y”!
    What’s that spell?
    No-o-o-o-t Hillary!

    If any of you are getting tired of this, let me know and I’ll stop.
    Until then, I am NOT tired of it…

      1. Today’s the anniversary of HRC not being sworn in as president.

        “Not Hillary” is a standard thing I’m happy about.

          1. … thanks to not-Hillary, I’m still in America!

            I sooooooo want somebody to make a parody of those annoying Realtor.com ads, with the Trumps arriving at the White House and Hillary & Huma glaring in …

            1. Heh. This just in:

              Guess what: the Democratic advantage has been cut almost in half. Wonder if the tax cut, whose popularity is steadily growing, might have anything to do with this? From the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll just out:

              The poll has some potential good news for Republicans who are nervously eyeing their re-election prospects in November. The Democratic advantage on the generic ballot is down to six points, compared to 11 points last month. In December, 50 percent of Americans said they preferred a Democratic-controlled Congress after the 2018 election, while 39 percent favored one led by Republicans. Now, 49 percent say they want to see a Democratic Congress, while 43 percent pick the GOP to lead on Capitol Hill.

              If the economy continues to grow solidly, with widely dispersed benefits, watch for Democratic panic and crazy rhetoric to grow along with it.
              HT: Power Line http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2018/01/has-trump-set-up-an-economic-boom.php


              (Humming) It’s a long long while from now to November
              but the votes grow close as you reach September
              and the autumn paychecks leave the voters tame
              and Dems haven’t got time for the honest claim. …

              1. My first thought in reading this was “Gee, I wonder if this is one of a series of stories we’re going to see as the Democrat establishment tries to reclaim some of the credibility their Poll organizations lost in 2016”?

                You know ‘Democrats losing advantage! See? We’re telling you bad news about our side! We’re honest! Really!’

                1. The local AM station does a weekly recap of Rush’s show on Saturday mornings. I turned it on when I was getting the shop stove running, and he was talking about the story of “the Dems are going to win; but we don’t know if it will be a blowout or just enough for speaker Pelosi”. Complete with quotes from the usual Dem suspects and anonymous NeverTrumpers.

                  Rush’s take is to call BS and wishful thinking. The fact that the DNC is in a death match between the left wing and the lefter wing wasn’t mentioned, and the rather amusing fact that their fundraising got hijacked by OHB and HRC. Yeah, the GOP can still screw the pooch, but with #SchumerShutdown trending, there’s going to have to be a lot of obvious spinning going on. Annnnnnd, I think a lot more people are noticing.

                  1. The Democrat establishment is praying that the ‘the President’s party loses ground at the half-cycle’ meme will be true. I don’t think they understand – or WANT to understand – how badly some of their antics have been playing.

                    We’ll see.

                    What I, personally, hope for is that they get desperate enough to be more than usually sloppy in their vote-massaging. Trump plays hardball. If they try to steal a few close elections and get caught at it, that could overcome a lot of the hysterical resistance they’ve put up over voter ID and cleaning up the voter rolls. And if that happens, they are REALLY screwed.

                    They are fond of saying that Her Shrillness won the popular vote (as if that meant something). Personally, I am inclined to think she probably didn’t.

                    1. It’s been conveniently memory holed, but recall the stories that noted HRC won the popular vote almost exclusivley due to the California vote. Absent the stay-behind idiots out here, Donald would have won the popular vote too.

                      And California is a Dem done deal, as it really could not possibly get any more blue. The Democrat Party can’t leverage the popular vote margin from here for anything much at all in the rest of the country.

                      While resetting a clock-radio after it was unplugged the other night, I randomly landed on NPR, and they were breathlessly interviewing some gravel-voiced guy talking about how everyone he now talks to in his safari through Flyoverland now hates Trump, feels betrayed, and so on.

                      I just don’t believe it’s possible, given the approval numbers.

                      To relate this to Cedar’s post, this is the perfect example of the confirmation bias and approval seeking bubble behavior that a lot of folks using the web for much of their interpersonal interactions are prone to – and that folks who have some basic foundation for their life outside of “They like me, they really like me!” do not find themselves susceptible.

                      My prediction: The Dems will step halfway to the wall in the midterms, taking half the R margin away in the House, mostly from R squishes, but they will lose one or two in the Senate.

                    2. I live in flyoverland. Albeit in a place that I don’t use as a proxy for the rest. I don’t think I need to prove my anti-Trump bonafides here. I’ve been ever so slowly warming to the fellow.

                      I’m a proven bad proxy for my population. So I’m perhaps fallacious in supposing that if my population were swinging hard against Trump, that I wouldn’t be moving the opposite direction.

                      I really dunno.

                    3. I just looked at the proposed map of New California. Very Interesting. If CalExit happened, I could see New Cal and/or Jefferson being created. (My wife is musing about Jefferson holding the flyover counties of Washington, Oregon, and California from Mt Shasta on up.)

                    4. The ‘President’s party loses ground at the half-cycle’ meme (typically 26 seats, IIRC) is grossly inflated by two outlier elections, those in 1994 (54 House seats) and 2010 (64 seats) in which huge swings to the opposition party occurred. I leave as an exercise for the reader the question of what qualities about those two off-year elections makes them distinct.

                      In 1982, after Reagan’s first two years, the Dems gained 27 House seats, solidifying their majority. In 1970 The Dems gained 12 House seats, expanding an already sizable majority. In 1978 Republicans gained 15 House seats. 1990 saw a swing of 9 House seats to the Dems while 2002 saw a gain of 8 House seats by the Republicans.

                      Given the various changes in the last fifty years it seems a stretch to push beyond the 1970 midterm, and questionable to go even that far back. This is the kind of nonsense cultivated by hucksters and pundits (but I repeat myself) seeking to project a trend where data is inadequate to the task.

                      One might distinguish between parties and project that the Republican Party typically loses 10 seats in the first mid-term after electing a president while the Democrat Party typically loses 44.3 seats.

                    5. Oh yeah, the Cascades make a good dividing line. The climate, economy and politics are completely different. Over here, you can drive a Subaru and nobody thinks “Hillary or Bernie?”. And, we actually have a use for studded snow tires in winter. 🙂

                    6. While the Cascades would make a decent border, let us not forget the poor bastards stuck on the western side with the urban areas, and who want nothing to do with their politics and policies, either. In Washington state, once you get away from the Puget Sound Metropolitan Cancer, you find that there’s a lot more in common with the eastern half of the state than not. The real divide is urban/rural, not geography itself.

                      Personally, I think the real solution is to turn the major metro areas into their own city-states, in the sense of US states, not nation states. Give them their own Senators, their own Representatives, and let them do their own thing, instead of playing the 800-lb gorilla to the rest of the state and region they happen to be connected to.

                      The Constitution does not really accommodate the idea that major regional cities would come into existence, swaying the entire state and region. The growth of these cancerous metropolitan areas has completely undone the balancing act which the Founders did. The idea that New York City can make policy for the entire state, including the rural areas that residents of that urban blight never see, let alone understand? Entirely at odds with the ideals of the Constitution. They simply didn’t see it coming, and I think we ought to consider amending the Constitution to say that once you reach a point where the metropolitan area in a region becomes able to sway the politics of the entire state or region, then it’s time to take that metro area out of that state, put it on its own political basis, and let things happen. The idea that Seattle or Portland is going to be able to determine local policy matters for areas like Okanogan County or Hermiston is flatly ridiculous; those areas are nearly as alien to the urban experience as Mars is, and to allow the denizens of the metropolitan cancers to determine what is going to be done out in the countryside…? Long-term, that’s a perfect recipe for insurrection.

                    7. The real divide is urban/rural, not geography itself.

                      This is the understanding underlying many recent Progressive Agenda Policies (PAP). Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing — moving their voters into other polities. Challenging gerrymandering which decreases their “vote efficiency” in order to incorporate urban voters into suburban and rural districts is another way of undermining the social integrity of districts. Then there is the effort to force suburban polities into urban environments, another way of leveraging their strength among urban voters to subsume opposition.

              2. I’ll just note that we’ve had two elections recently where the polls looked promising but turned out poorly. Alabama was polling not horrible but the enthusiasm gap wasn’t caught. Between the multiple retirements and fanatacism we currently see it could repeat 2010.

                We haven’t been able to pass a budget in a decade. Social cohesion seems to fall daily and you can’t trust what is reality from what others tell you. Never mind the multitude of landmines waiting to go off like SS/Medicare.

  7. Maybe it’s because my introduction to “karma” as a product of tiered moderation, what amounts to cumulative like/dislike stats, was Slashdot in its earliest days, and I was already a middle-aged curmudgeon… but I soon noticed how it was basically a peeing contest. Getting modded down to “-1 Troll/Flamebait” a few times will knock the piss right out of you.

    Nowadays I’m croggled that I’ve collected almost 900 followers on Gab, when pretty much all I do is repost stuff from the five people on my Dailies List, and occasionally cite an article from City-Journal or Jewish World Review.

    As a Slashdot tagline says: “I still have more friends than freaks**. WTF is wrong with you people??”

    ** “Freak”: a user who has designated you as a “foe”.

    1. There’s interesting conspiracy fodder stuff out there on who actually funded Zuckerberg early on, and how the design choices made when building Zuckerbook make it an ideal an information gathering platform for national intelligence agencies.

      1. I’m not so sure that it’s entirely in the realm of “conspiracy theory”, to be quite honest. If you go back and look at some of the stuff I was reading in the literature, back around the time myspace was taking off…?

        I would not be a bit surprised to find out that Zuckerberg was a front man for someone in either the NSA or the CIA who found the people running myspace difficult to work with. There were, you see, intimations that myspace was being a little more protective of their customer’s privacy than was preferred…

        On the other hand, I could be “reading between the lines” in error.

        1. Just because its a conspiracy theory, doesn’t mean it’s not true.

          And if it is true, backing the development of Zuckerbook is arguably the best intelligence return-on-investment for a US TLA for a very long time indeed.

  8. i’m reduced to one finger, left hand, typimg as I recover from my stroke. So I use the like emoji tp tell FB I want more from that blog author. Some I really like but FB omly gas 1 emoji.

  9. My take on all the pronouncementa we see about ‘the social media’ is that we have entirely too many ‘social scientists’ with much too much time on their hands. I’m suppose there may be some validity to what they do, their methods and so on. But I often get the feeling that we are seeing the heyday of a ‘science’ that will someday be considered quaint. Something like phrenology.

    1. Quite possible! But it’s a major part of how humans now, and in the future, interact, so studying it to gain understanding is useful. If for no other reason than a marketing standpoint. I use social media as a market platform as much as I do a family meet-up

    2. The Lynda Crenshaw Time Management Fundamentals course makes some arguments about available focus, how many things are being kept in memory, and the cost of switching mid task. I recently had some problems with really bad habits, and went looking for help. Insert new convert religious zealotry.

      I’m pretty sure constantly checking FB for updates on one’s smart phone would distract. I understand that FB presents information in a disordered way that confuses and makes it hard to consume in a organized and scheduled manner. The disorder might also count as an irregular reward that may be more addictive.

  10. Cedar Sanderson, I had such a good, artsy comment, then WordPress Ate it. Hard to reconstruct such wit, but I will try:

    I am not sure exactly how to evaluate the trueness of a friendship by whether it was created by social media or in person. I know most of my social media contacts that I consider close are ones that I first knew elsewhere: school and church and other acquaintances. Social media helps compress the distance that time often brings.
    And yet there are also a few that started on Social Media, that I yet consider close. I am not sure how Cedar Sanderson considers her friendship with me, but I consider my friendship with her a good one (I wouldn’t presume to use the word close), if for no other reason than that she usually makes an insightful comment to my comment whenever I attempt an insightful comment on one of her posts (I don’t comtment on posts very often).

    The chance for Betsy and I to meet you in person that one Summer in Ohio while we were traveling back home on vacation, confirmed our sense of friendship. Over that meal at the Vietnamese restaurant we got a good feel that, while we have very many differences, we yet solidly belong to the same community of others and otherness that has gathered in the Hoyts Huns and adjunct groupings.

    On your questions about validation, I think we all need internal and external. We need a sense of ourselves that is satisfied with much of the now, yet dissatisfied for it to remain so. We should always be questing to grow. Our internal voice can sway us too far either way, so external voices are helpful, if we recognize when they try to move us too far one way or another.

    We can’t let ourselves get fooled by ourselves, or by others.

    And all of that, comes from G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, paraphrased and applied here to a different context.

  11. “I came across a concept I rather like, metaphorically speaking of our relationships with the social circle as being like a convoy. The term in the paper “used to evoke the image of a protective layer, in this case, of family and friends, who surround the individual and help in the successful negotiation of life’s challenges. Each person can be thought of as moving through life surrounded by a group of other people to whom he or she is related through the exchange of social support.””

    Which reminds me ever so much like Robert Heinlein’s Troop of Baboons in his Annapolis address when he was speaking of patriotism, duty, and morality.

  12. 𝐸𝑣𝑒𝑛 𝑡ℎ𝑜𝑢𝑔ℎ 𝐼’𝑚 𝑖𝑛 𝑜𝑛𝑒 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑓𝑒𝑤 𝑟𝑎𝑟𝑒 𝑒𝑥𝑐𝑒𝑝𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛𝑠, 𝐼’𝑙𝑙 𝑏𝑒 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑓𝑖𝑟𝑠𝑡 𝑡𝑜 𝑠𝑎𝑦 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑡 ℎ𝑎𝑑 𝐼 𝑛𝑜𝑡 𝑏𝑒𝑒𝑛 𝑖𝑚𝑝𝑒𝑡𝑢𝑜𝑢𝑠 𝑒𝑛𝑜𝑢𝑔ℎ 𝑡𝑜 𝑡𝑟𝑢𝑠𝑡 ℎ𝑖𝑚 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑚𝑎𝑘𝑒 𝑎 𝑙𝑜𝑛𝑔 𝑣𝑖𝑠𝑖𝑡, 𝑤𝑒 𝑤𝑜𝑢𝑙𝑑 𝑛𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑟 ℎ𝑎𝑣𝑒 𝑏𝑒𝑒𝑛 𝑚𝑜𝑟𝑒 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑛 𝑜𝑛𝑙𝑖𝑛𝑒 𝑓𝑟𝑖𝑒𝑛𝑑𝑠 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ 𝑛𝑜 𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑙 𝑟𝑜𝑚𝑎𝑛𝑐𝑒 𝑏𝑒𝑡𝑤𝑒𝑒𝑛 𝑢𝑠.

    Coming to this late, but I’m one of the exceptions too, met my late wife on Q-Link (AOL’s original service, for Commodore 64s) in the late 80s. We met in person when people we both knew online got married (it didn’t last.) What I saw over the years that separated the ones that lasted from those that didn’t was that they met in person fairly early in the relationship. Not shortly after they met online, but shortly after they start talking in relationship terms.

    The problem is that being only human, we mostly show the good sides of ourselves. Even the bad things we turn into funny stories. So it’s easy to idealize the person you know online. He would never leave the toilet seat up. She would never try to assassinate you by strangling you with pantyhose hung in the shower to dry. (And neither of you would ever let out a fart like THAT.) One or both build up an unrealistic expectation that no mere mortal can live up to.

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