Living Vicariously Through Social Media

I don’t know if this question ever enters your mind, but do you ever feel left out when you see those perfectly framed glamour shots on Instagram? It’s likely that, at some point in your life, you’ve felt so excited and intrigued by the happenings in the life of someone else that you took on their emotions and imagined their circumstances to be your own. These moments of imaginary living are an example of what we call living vicariously.

Why are we so obsessed with social media? Why do these transports to cyberspace consume our time so frequently? Why does our time in cyberspace sometimes cause us stress or depression?

Are You Living Vicariously ?

One day, I had an epiphany:  Our social media are tools that can make vicarious living seem very convenient. In fact, the social media companies promote more than “connectedness.” They promote living vicariously without spelling this out to you.

There is little doubt that social media will be a part most peoples’ life for the foreseeable future, so my colleagues and I at Presence Global advocate for care, moderation, forethought about pitfalls, and informed use of social media. I advise readers to look honestly at what they hope to get and what they actually get from social media. One recommendation I can confidently make is to take regular vacations from social media. Some people who take breaks from social media on a trial basis end up deleting at least one of their social accounts.

We often use social media to compare ourselves to whomever we’re looking at or to judge others. But what we’re really doing inside is saying, “I want to be that person; I want to look like that person; I want the experiences that person gets to have; or I want to have as much or more money than that person.“ There are people who live vicariously through celebrities, often those of reality TV fame—the people who are famous only because they are famous.

When living vicariously through celebrities (or other types of “special” people), we do not see how much they are like us. Celebrities shop at the grocery store! They take out the garbage! They get parking tickets! And most of all, they have personal problems! But at other times, the wealthiest celebrities take their private jet some place for an impromptu week away, and suddenly we gloomily tell ourselves that they are nothing like us. There is no better place to see proof of the perks of wealth than on Instagram, where celebrities post their modeled shots, beach vacations, and general evidence of what living in the lap of luxury is like.

Just between you and I, it’s all a show.

The Irony Living Someone Else’s Dream

The following words from a poem by Edgar Allan Poe, A Dream Within a Dream, dramatizes the confusion and disillusionment felt by the narrator as he watches the things he thought important in life slip away.

All that we see or seem 
Is but a dream within a dream.

If you consider this in the context of living vicariously, Poe was saying not only that what we see is a dream but also what we seem to be is a dream.  Realizing that he cannot hold on to even one golden grain of sand, his disillusionment leads to a final cry of regret:

Oh God! Can I not save
One from the pitiless wave:
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

Social media have become dream worlds for living vicariously.  Social media will find a chink or two to slip their golden fingers through “to please the child, to paint your life, for the lonely of the world”—there the social media try to reach us.

Impact of Instafamous Celebrities on Consumers

Instagram is one of the most popular social apps in the world. It has become the most popular app for gaining and awarding popularity. Every life story winds its way through “likes” and comments with the aid of #Hashtags. Hashtags have become a shorthand jargon for users. Instagram is much more than just uploading and liking pictures, and maybe this is one of the crucial reasons it has surged upwards in comparison to other social media like Snapchat, Facebook, etc.

The popularity of social media platforms continues to grow rapidly, and corporate brands are using these platforms with new strategies to gain visibility with users. A popular business tactic is the synthetic online “celebrities” known as social media influencers (SMIs). Corporate brands use an SMI the way a movie celebrity traditionally tries to influence consumers’ perceptions. The use of SMIs in marketing campaigns has grown in areas of beauty/fashion, home/family, health/fitness, travel/lifestyle, food/beverage, business/tech, and entertainment. The payoff for businesses is the sway that SMIs have over consumers’ behavior.

Influencers and Conformity

As children, most of us played the game “Simon Says.” In this game, one player gives commands, and the other players follow. The challenge is to heed only those commands prefaced with the words “Simon says.” Eventually, everyone succumbs to following a command that Simon said but without prefacing it with “Simon says.”  This suggests how hard-wired we are to follow along without giving a second thought or exercising response inhibition.

But we are no longer children, right? Now that we are mostly adult and are targets of advertising campaigns, this would be a good time to ask how many childhood habits continue to direct our decisions.

Social media present us with a filtered or synthetic reality that makes everything look better than it is. The fear of missing out (FOMO)—the feeling that everyone else is having more fun, living better lives, and experiencing better things—can be a major source of stress linked to our self-esteem.

Influencers themselves can get addicted to a need for constant external validation and approval in the form of Like buttons (Facebook, Instagram), thumbs-up icons (YouTube), “1” button (Google), favorites (Twitter, Flickr), upvotes (Reddit), re-pins (Pinterest), and star ratings (Amazon). These gestures are not just for validating the influences: They are an important part of providing user data to online businesses.

Is Living Vicariously Always a Bad Thing?

I always recommend that you truly live life for yourself and not through other people, but that does not necessarily mean that living vicariously is always a bad thing. For example, if you emulate someone because they are an excellent role model and respect them because they deserve your respect, that is just a healthy way to be and will add value to your life as you learn from that person.  However, if you live vicariously through others primarily because you don’t believe in yourself and your abilities or do not have a definite identity and healthy boundaries, that could be a serious problem and something you really need to look into.

So, I guess the answer depends on why you have chosen to live life vicariously. For example, if being with someone that makes you happy enough to live through them vicariously and they are happy, too, then who is to say that is a bad thing?

My Advice

Consider living life for yourself and without comparisons to contrived personae in social media. You might need time to discover what it means to experience life without references to in social media. That is understandable.

Have you been to a live event and seen most people with their cellphones out rather than watching the event? Then, when people not at the event see posts from this event, those who live vicariously get jealous. And if we were there and preoccupied with capturing the event to share on social media, then we’re doing it so people can vicariously experience it, and in the meantime, we miss out on the event itself. These are examples living life vicariously.

If we are living through others, we are not really participating in life. Living through others, we are spectators to life, not participants. Ironically, in the present moment is the only time we experience real life. If we want to enjoy life, we need to take in what’s right in front of us in the present rather than what’s in a social app.

At the end of the day, celebrities are regular people and are like us except they might have more money (or might be far deeper in debt—you never know). And guess what? They’re not paying your bills or putting money in your pocket.

I never put famous people on a pedestal—no one should, in my view, because you don’t really know what’s going on behind their closed doors. Also, I do not now and will never believe celebrities are having a perfect life or a perfect anything. Perfection doesn’t exist in real life, and life always has a way of reminding us of this.

Consider my advice to live your own experiences and create your own memories. Live the best life you can, to the fullest. I know this might seem a difficult or even intimidating prospect, but believe me, things will get better if you persevere.

#The presence of joy of missing out (JOMO) eliminates the fear of missing out (FOMO)

#Join the movement

Read more about online privacy: What is Online Presence, 10 Tips to Protect Your Online Privacy and continue your journey to a more secure online experience VPN for Virus-Free Online Experience , 10 Tips to Protect Your Online Privacy

Consumer Security Evangelist @ Presence Global.
Sep 12, 2021 7:07:38 PM

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