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The Trap of Being Liked: Fueling External Validation

Dec 8, 2023 | Daily Trek, Unlearn

The Trap of Being Liked and Needing External Verification - Radical Trekking - Ayelet Baron

We often shape ourselves according to being liked, sometimes losing our true selves in the process. A recent paper makes a crucial distinction: popularity among many differs from genuine liking by specific individuals.

Research into adult conversations reveals a blend of assertiveness and humility often leads to popularity. However, extraordinary kindness, compassion, and warmth are key to real connections and unique likability. Boasting and confidence increased popularity, but only exceptional friendliness drove friendship.

In the digital world, likes often tie to popularity more than to genuine connection. Social media users usually post more when receiving likes and adjust their behavior to platform algorithm changes. This pattern, prevalent on Facebook and Twitter, favors likes over authentic interaction and dialogue.

Popularity’s pursuit over likability has greatly influenced politicians on Twitter. A study of over a million tweets by Congress members since 2009 shows a 23% rise in offensive language. This increase isn’t incidental but stems from the social media feedback loop. Politicians see that uncivil tweets often receive more attention and approval, leading them to post similarly in the future.

More importantly, politicians learned to increase their incivility from the social signals as “uncivil tweets tended to receive more approval and attention,” and “the greater this feedback for uncivil tweets, the more uncivil [their] tweets were thereafter”.

This scenario signals a broader societal shift. The quest for popularity often sacrifices authenticity and kindness, shaping behaviors and interactions. But should we accept this? Perhaps we need to address the root cause: why do we obsess over others’ approval and likability?

Everything might change when we realize that we no longer need others to tell us how to be.

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