Call it an accident or fate, by the serial flicking of stories on Instagram I came across a 15-year-old’s. Two girls in a frame, very keen on validating their friendship on camera, and the caption was “My adopted mom” It may seem scandalous, but relax it’s just an outburst of affection. The caption on the next post read “Can’t wait to get drunk with all of you!” Just a naive attempt at fame while entering the teendom. Of Course, I didn’t send it to their mom’s kitty party Whatsapp group.
I belong to the transition generation. The period where the world was slowly but steadily adapting to the internet. At home, an entire study table was dedicated to the fat monitor and its wired family. The rest of the marginal space you could use for books, with the occasional bang of the leg, down at the poor CPU.
Social validation back in the day would be to know all cheat codes in Vice city and defeat the neighborhood pro. Having a Linkin park wallpaper on the PC and a Facebook profile that read: in the end, it doesn’t even matter…; were all considered cool. Yes, we’ve always loved to feel validated.
Cut to now, where Instagram has replaced vice city and super smartphones, its heavyweight ancestor. You spend lavishly on a trip but you don’t show the whole world your “sun-kissed” shots at exotic (mostly Goa) locations? Nope, that’s against the principles of Wanderlust. The occasional lunch photo fetches you curious queries and lauds you for your choice. The feeling is no less than awarding a Michelin star to the chef.
An online controversy over a socio-political issue emerges, and it is your moral right to dive right in. Fast! There’s no time for proper research! Pick the side your favorite influencer has and hashtag away. The world has been apprised of your opinion; with pomp, you say it’s a small effort to make the world a better place to live in.
The sudden headrush when the likes start pouring in, someone flatters you in the comments or your secret crush replies to your story (it wasn’t intended, was it?) is intoxicating. The euphoria-like state, with the surge of dopamine, trust me, is not limited to the blue tick. Be it 200 or 2 million followers, all of us love being at the receiving end of validation. And why shouldn’t we? Entire apps have been designed to make us feel so; one click and the feel-good hormone rushes in.
The tools have changed, but the biology remains the same. We now have instant sources of validation. “Social media – boon or bane” is a topic we’ve debated in school since time immemorial. The validation may be the boost you needed for waltzing through the day, or it may further your anxiety and constant need for approval. I promise you, it is okay if you do not have ‘gram-worthy pictures of an outing or outfit; the sun will still shine, the flowers will still bloom, and random people will still slide into your DMs.
It’s a game, and your validation threshold will be unique to you. You’re playing it regularly and you’re probably a pro. Cyberpunk is passé, this game has users playing it in complete oblivion. Think about it till then, I’ll be right back, someone just tagged me in their photo dump, and I have been tasked with writing the pre-decided nostalgia-laden comment.
Written by Oishik Roy for MTTN
Edited by Asma Abidin for MTTN
Featured image by Mimi N/Patreon
Artwork by Yang Yifei