I caught myself the other day counting the number of likes on my Facebook page and it looked like I just needed five more likes to hit 100. It was a big thing and I wanted to make a big deal out of it. So I went about looking for images of the like button with the number 100 next to it. I didn’t find any, so I simply posted a message on my page about reaching 100 likes. I imagined that I would get a tsunami of likes and comments and praise.
Next day when I opened my Facebook page I was in for a big disappointment. Only nine people had viewed my post and there were ZERO likes and ZERO comments. My heart sank to the bottom of my soles. Then some better judgement set in and I decided to be happy that 100 people had liked my page – whether or not the 100 people knew that did not matter. It hit me like a ton of bricks that the very thing I despised about Facebook was the thing I too was hankering after. Approval in the form of likes, comments, shares etc. Later that day when R sent me the link to my blog published in the Indian Express I resisted the urge to blow my own trumpet on Facebook. I quietly sent it to my close friends and family via e-mail.
Even before the advent of Facebook, people constantly sought approval from loved ones, colleagues, mentors and friends. If a new haircut did not evoke the right response one would feel dejected. Big project at work completed but boss says nothing. No bonus. No graduation party. No promotion. What? It is as if our whole life revolves around getting, gifts, rewards and accolades for performing duties or jobs. So much so that we rarely enjoy doing anything that has no obvious reward.
As the world gets more connected and souls get more detached, we still cling on to the need for approval. Enter Facebook – where you can post every little triumph and every selfie you click and bask in the admiration of all your contacts. To some extent I justified my need to post on Facebook. As a writer I have to share my writing with my audience or stay a closet writer. Earlier, writers had to wait weeks or months for mail from readers and even to get their articles in print. But these days publishing is done by the click of a mouse and feedback is almost instantaneous. We want more of it and seek it out unashamedly.
I tend to judge my piece based on the response I get, which is quite silly and isn’t the purpose of my blog. What I write may not resonate with all 100 (oops! did I just let that slip again?) readers, but it has its purpose. I recall my early days as a blogger, so unsure of myself, so needy and bashful. I relied solely on feedback from my readers. I lapped up all the praise I could get and that fed my confidence as a writer. I was incredibly grateful for the gift and I knew every one of my readers personally. All that has changed now. I don’t know half my readers and yet my insatiable hunger for approval remains unabated. More more is the mantra. Never enough! enough! My cup is full.
It is not easy to rid oneself of this disease. As babies we are constantly seeking attention and as kids we are taught that good behavior is approved by authority figures and bad behavior is punished. We get conditioned to expect rewards or at least approval for all the things we do right. Looking outside for approval diminishes the quality of our work because in essence we are trying to please someone else. The joy got from that is fleeting but when we create for our own pleasure it is much more satisfying.
I am not there yet, for the pull of the world and its playthings are strong. But I see the madness and I see the pointlessness. I straddle two worlds, unable to shut the door on one or the other. But someday I will. Someday.