03: A theory of relativity.

- June 5, 2016 -

As I am increasingly coming to realize, the numbers which we use to quantify our lives in the online universes of social media are much more relative than they are absolute.

One photo of yours gets 300 likes on Instagram while the next one gets 30. A celebrity shares a selfie and the likes skyrocket to the hundreds of thousands, often even reaching the million-or-more mark. But how much does any of it really mean?

Because I have a difficult time gauging their value in digital terms, I try to approach these online interactions (likes, comments, shares..) from a more human perspective.

There have been many times in my life when a single good conversation was enough to nudge me back onto my feet, or a chance run-in with someone I hadn’t seen in a while continued to have a positive impact on me for months. In both cases, the numbers were very small — involving only one or two other people — but the effect was profound.

When I transfer that kind of thinking to the online world, I feel an enormous sense of relief. I no longer look at an underperforming post and feel bad about how it only got X number of likes or comments. Instead, I feel happy, excited, and grateful at the thought of how much it would mean to me if, say, the 50 people who liked that post had interacted with me in-person.

When was the last time that any of us had 50 people walk up to us, earnestly listen to what we had to say, and then gave us a compliment on it? It might seem like a bit of a stretch, but isn’t this essentially what happens with social media? Real people, other human beings who have families and homes and hopes and dreams, are taking the time to have those interactions with you. These moments are taking place online, but that doesn’t mean that they’re any less real.

As Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” If even one person were to walk up to us and tell us that they appreciated something we’d done, wouldn’t we all be bubbling with gratitude for days to come?


– J


This piece comes from Jana Marie’s newsletter, The Sunday Letters. You can sign up to receive future editions below.