What Is Social Media for If Not for Posting Photos?

Just one of hundreds of baby photos I've posted on social media in my time.
Just one of hundreds of baby photos I’ve posted on social media in my time.

If there’s one thing that really gets under my skin, it’s people dishing up rules for social media. You should do this, you shouldn’t do this, I don’t want to see photos of your lunch, I don’t like photos of kids, stop posting political opinions … Listen up! That’s what social media is for! It’s for whatever we want it to be and the beautiful thing about it is you don’t have to look. Yet people are still hammering out ridiculous posts lamenting all the annoying people in their feed.

The Huffington Post recently published an article that had me ready to be offended; with a title like “Yo Jackass, We All Think Our Kid Is The Cutest” you can see why. But Dr. Peggy Drexler actually has a point. After quoting an author on Chicago Now who said, “For the love of God, stop posting 9,000 pictures of your baby on Facebook … You know the type I’m talking about. That mom who genuinely thinks her baby is cuter than all the others.”

Drexler goes on to explain that we’ve become a culture of complainers and it’s the complaining that bonds us:

“We use complaints as icebreakers or to bond with others … Studies have suggested that complaining adds years to your life by helping us release tension … Complaining about the social media habits makes this ever more clear, and has become a favorite topic of conversation: Who’s most annoying in your feed? Because of course, the solution to dealing with the oversharers clogging our feed is painfully obvious: Unfollow them. Stop engaging. Delete.”

Nobody’s unfollowing or deleting, of course. Because secretly — just like gossip in the workplace — we all love to talk about commonalities and observations of those around us. That’s what Drexler is getting at. We like to complain about the crap people post on social media.

Think about a gathering of you and your friends. Inevitably the conversation turns to who’s sharing what on Facebook and Instagram. I used to be that person. The one who mocked what others choose to post. So many selfies! Who cares about your dinner? Another sunset?! But I don’t do that any longer. I’ve realized that’s the beauty of social media, you know? Seeing what people choose to share and how they share it. Social media, to me, is like people watching at an airport only much more intimate because people post the craziest things. I love it.

So ignore the haters and post on with your bad self. Political rant? Have at it! Photo of your dinner? Yes please! And more baby photos! They make me the happiest of all so keep at it. After all, it’s the entire point of social media. Plus, we’re giving the haters something to complain about, which, as Drexler says, they actually enjoy: “This, of course, is what keeps people overposting. It’s not their inherent flaw, or simply their desire to be heard. It’s our willingness to listen. The only way people will stop oversharing, or badly sharing, is to refuse to be their audience. That’s not something we’re willing to do. So instead we complain, and pretend to wonder what it is we can do about all these selfies filling our feeds.”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some photos to Instagram.

Image source: Monica Bielanko

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