Will Reynolds

Will Reynolds. Laura Beahm 02-09-18

How much can you learn about somebody from their social media?

That’s one question I’ve attempted to answer.

Here’s another: How many of your friends or followers on social media do you actually know or are you friends with?

That’s an even more complex answer than the first question.

Social media has undoubtedly changed our lives — maybe in some good ways, maybe in others bad.

Social media is designed to fulfill needs. Think back to your schooling. Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?

Our psychological needs, which according to the model are “Love and Belonging & Esteem,” are what social media thrives off of.

We want to be loved within our communities and many of us also want to feel recognized, regardless if you are shaking your head saying “not me.”

Here’s an example: Hey, everyone, look at this photo I just posted. If you like what you see, press the heart button. I now feel loved and recognized. Thank you. I’ll continue to post to receive more hearts.

That’s social media in its most basic form. Does that sound too simple for you? It should.

What we post is our choice, obviously. Some of us — especially looking at you, election season Facebookers — probably need to do more deep thinking (and research and fact checking!) before we hit the “post” button.

But all of what we post, no matter how little or big you believe this to be, is a piece of us. And it shapes how others view us.

It’s symbolic interactionism, the theory that each of our experiences influences our beliefs and views and the meanings in our life.

Social media has such a grasp on some of our lives that we’ve become so distracted and distanced. (Thanks, quarantine, you sure didn’t help.)

While writing this column, I’ve woken up my phone twice. I’ve only written 10 inches.

I didn’t have a single notification by the way, which is odd. Are my friends awake yet? I’ve been at work for three hours now. Why haven’t they sent me any Instagram posts to laugh at yet?

OK, that was millennial sarcasm. I’m not that dependent on my phone. But I can’t seem to wean myself off of social media.

Back to my original point, though, I feel you can learn a lot from one’s social media portfolio.

A girl, who I have met in person (only once), and I were messaging on Instagram one day a while back. We know bits about each other, sure. But I’d argue that you can’t know someone fully without in-person interaction.

So, we small-talked for a while, until I mentioned meeting up some day when we’re in the same city.

I decided this was my shot to prove I’ve been paying attention, not just to her (come on, guys, I follow, like 500 other people I barely know). But that I pay attention to what I see in general.

I asked myself what do I actually know about this person that would make we want to meet them? We’ve been in the same room really only once (no, she’s not a celebrity), but I felt like I knew her because of her social media. I was conflicted.

I went for it anyway. I told her I thought I had her figured out, which is totally what someone wants to hear... NOT.

She asked why I thought that, and I provided an answer that surprised her.

“I think you’re spot on about who I am as a person,” she replied.

I’m not sure what this says about me as a person, you can gather your own conclusions.

More importantly, I think it proves more about social media. I’m not exclusively referring to Instagram, which many of this publication’s readers might not even have, but it’s probably my most interacted with social media app.

I’ve posted probably 300 times on the site, which, believe me, is comparatively not many.

In that number, I’ve included about 50 archived posts that no longer are relevant to be on my profile but once lived on the internet.

I know social media isn’t always rainbows and butterflies. We want to look like we have our stuff together. But we don’t always.

We don’t always think about the impressions we provide others, but social media is just as much of a tool for that these days as any human interaction.

My thought is, if I gathered this from that person’s profile, what do people get from mine? Who am I to others?

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