Hello, everybody and happy Valentine's Day! For the 21st year in a row, I'll be spending the holiday with the love of my life. Granted, the love of my life often changes (because I'm fickle and there's just too many suitors to choose from) but this year I think I've chosen Gin to be my valentine. Mom, if you're reading this: I'm so sorry.
On a more serious note though, being single on Valentine's Day isn't a huge misfortune in my life, but I won't lie and say I didn't make a point to take myself to Wal-Mart earlier to buy a container of miniature cupcakes. To be fair, they are to share with friends I'm seeing later tonight, but regardless there is an inherent sadness that comes with buying $4 cupcakes packaged God knows how long ago. As I was using the self-checkout, I came to the realization that this was the kind of pathetic and unfortunate scenario I'd be inclined to post on my Snapchat story. This got me thinking: When I experience misfortunate, why is posting it on social media my first instinct?
Yesterday I locked my keys in my car. I called AAA, then I posted it to my Snapchat story.
In October, I got rear-ended and had my car thoroughly damaged in the process. While waiting for police to arrive, I posted it to my Snapchat story.
I drop a full plate of food on the floor: Snapchat story.
I find myself single on Valentine's Day. I post a photo of my Dunkin Donuts coffee to my Snapchat story, pretending the styrofoam cup is my S.O.
WHAT. AM. I?
I'm not the only person who does this. At least once a day, I see an acquaintance has posted about their misfortunes on social media in some form or another. I receive texts from friends telling me that they've done something stupid or they've tripped and fallen in public, offering up the embarrassing information willingly and without prompting. We as millennials are big on letting the world know when we're in a bind. I have some theories as to why we do this.
We as humans are social creatures. Whether you're an introvert, extrovert, or somewhere in-between, we all crave connection in some way or another. We want to know that other people care about us, know things about us, have things in common with us. When I talk to my 82-year-old grandmother on the phone, she tells me about mistakes she's recently made or problems she's had. When I go to work, my supervisor will tell me if something has happened to mess up her day. Sharing our downfalls is just a way to connect to some degree, so for those of us who learned to socialize while holding a smartphone, posting it online is just an extension of that.
But I think there's more to it. At its core, yes, when I post about bad things that have happened to me I do it because I want people to relate or ask me if I'm okay. But I also do it because it helps me see the humor in the situation. Waiting for a locksmith or swapping auto insurance with a stranger objectively sucks, so maybe if I can make a joke about it for my friends I can lighten the mood for myself a little. But I mean, that's also potentially too optimistic. In reality it's a cocktail that's 1 part wanting to laugh, 3 parts wanting attention.
It's a befuddling phenomenon, either way you look at it. I'm not too sure what this says about us, but the media analyst in me could go on and on about how the ways we socialize and exist on the 'net is a more edited, idealized extension of who we are in real life. So then why point out the shitty stuff? I think it boils down to this: We want to be the most likable versions of ourselves online, and sometimes indirectly asking for pity is likable, especially if we can ham it up or crack a joke while we're at it. I'm not saying this is the most redeeming quality social media has to offer, but I think it's a pretty universal thing to do. I'd love to know your thoughts on the matter: Have you ever posted about your shortcomings online, and if so, why do you think you did it?