According to G.K. Chesterton, truth is often paradoxical. It’s hard to believe that the problem of loneliness is actually rooted in too much interaction.
But this is what Sean Parker’s uncanny insight seems to suggest. Sean Parker is the founding president of Facebook. He explained in an interview why it’s so hard to resist the impulse to constantly check your social media – even while you are driving.
He shared how social media gradually hook you up.
“When Facebook was getting going, I had these people who would come up to me and they would say, ‘I’m not on social media.’ And I would say, ‘OK. You know, you will be.’” Now that this prediction is more than fulfilled, the question is even more intriguing.
How did they do it?
Sean explains that the founders used basic human psychology – our need for approval. Social media are nothing but a social-validation feedback loop.
It works like this – the moment you contribute some content and people like it, share it or comment on it, you get a little dopamine hit. This makes you want to contribute more content, which, in turn, gives you another hit.
You want more likes and comments. We all like to be liked (who knew?) – and social media provides that.
This fact is not easy to swallow – social media work because we are seeking validation. When we feel lonely, cut off, isolated, we want to get rid of this feeling at all costs. But does “interaction” on social media actually help us solve the problem of loneliness?
Far from it. Of course, we will temporarily feel “high.” Like a shot of whisky, it will medicate the distressing feeling of loneliness for a while. But when its tranquilizing effects wear off, we will feel even emptier than before, craving for more validation.
More likes, more comments, more shares. Our inner void will be growing and gradually become a gaping hole, an insatiable inner monster that gets hungrier with every attempt to feed it.
The root of all loneliness
Jerry Wise, a psychologist and family therapist from Indiana, says, “The root of all loneliness is how you feel about yourself, not whether there are people around you.” One can be alone but not lonely. On the other hand, I can have friends and family around 24/7, but feel abandoned.
How often do we turn to our spouse, friend, or children to quell this voracious appetite for attention? The result seems to be always the same – not getting it. Others just cannot bear the burden of our happiness.
We may get a little “dose” from them once in a while, but when they leave, we feel emptier than before. That’s not what people are for.
What are they for?
What are people for? People exist so we can share the joy that we already have! When we share out of joy, we increase our joy. When we share out of emptiness, we increase our emptiness.
Seeking people out of inner emptiness does not solve the problem of loneliness. We just numb it out it for a while, develop an addiction to the drug – which some of us call Facebook or Instagram.
The paradoxical truth is this: as long as we “need” others to solve the problem of loneliness, we make it worse by our attempts to alleviate it.
If you need validation, you won’t get it
If you need validation, you won’t get it. But if you let it go, it will come to you. As Jesus said: “Those who try to gain their own life, will lose it. But those who lose their life for My sake, will gain it.”
Loneliness is about seeing myself as deficient. If I believe I am not enough, I will need someone else to fill me up. But it’s not true – I don’t need anyone else to fill me up.
I can go alone because I am actually never alone. When I decide to go without people’s love, praise, approval, I start getting love and approval in ways I could never imagine.
Life starts validating me in its mysterious ways. When I abstain from the drug of social “likes,” I receive validation as a gift.
People cannot fill me up. That’s not what they are for. Joy shared is joy doubled. Emptiness shared is emptiness doubled. We can use social media in healthy ways only if we are enough without them.
When we are addicted to something, we can never get what we are searching for. We are always seeking but never getting. The only way not to be alone is to decide to go alone – knowing that you are never alone.
The only way to true connectedness with others is not to need their validation. The only way to truly connect with me is to disconnect from any addictive sources of validation. In the final analysis, it’s all about letting go of control and resting.