Wherever you are right now, take a look around -- at the creepy guy sitting across from you on the subway, at the hot redhead waiting for her smoothie at Jamba Juice, at the dude in the RAV4 commiserating alongside you in freeway traffic. In each and every hypothetical scenario, there's one constant -- people staring at smartphones like zombies do brains.
Now, unless these people are talking, texting or asking Siri for directions to the nearest Fuddruckers -- all of which are legitimate reasons for cellphone use, by the way -- they're most likely busy seeking validation. And they don't even know it.
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Since the advent of social media, we've become the validation generation: unwitting slaves to positive reinforcement via the world wide web.
On Twitter, it's retweets, @mentions and favorites. On Facebook, it's likes, comments and the rare occasional status share. On Instagram, it's having that orange bar pop up in the right-hand corner of our stupid little LCD screen. When we sign into any of the aforementioned social media platforms, whether we admit it or not, we'd all like to see one of the aforementioned cyber pats on the back.
Now, if you're not someone who's semi-constantly hooked into a social media network of some sort, I legitimately applaud you. This article isn't for you. Stop reading posthaste, and instead go check out an episode of Arrested Development on Netflix. However, let it be known that you, sir or madam, are the exception, not the rule. In the '80s, yuppies craved status and wealth. Also, cocaine. In the '90s, Generation X craved energy drinks and snack chips with the word "extreme" somewhere in the title. And now in 2013, the validation generation craves social media attention, be it from our friends, family or an even a stranger.
Again -- why?!
And by the way, everything I'm questioning here, all that I'm vilifying, I'm more than guilty of myself. In fact, sadly, I'm probably more guilty than most. Anyone who reads my work on this website knows that I regularly dissect my own flaws. I often completely suck. In fact, I checked Facebook twice while writing this column. The validation generation also comes fit with a frighteningly low attention span.
A third time -- why?!
But this time, the question is more literal than hypothetical. Why? Well, let's break it down. Why is virtual validation, be it from a stranger or a friend, something we crave? I'm not about to speak for anyone else; that's not my place. I can only speak for myself.
On May 24th, at 11:51 PM, I inexplicably tweeted...
*If you know a straight guy who owns a DVD copy of Maid In Manhattan then you also know a liar.
Now, I'm not exactly sure what prompted this poor attempt at humor. Did I see Maid In Manhattan in a friend's DVD rack? Did I flip through the channels and see that this sh*tty, sh*tty movie was on cable? No. No to both. I'm just a weird dude. Also, I'm a comedy writer. And on top of that, I'm a Leo. As such, I can at times be an attention-starved horse's ass. To that effect, after writing that dud of a 140-character-or-less joke, I probably checked my Twitter another three times before dozing off that night.
Why? Well in this instance, it was me subconsciously craving validation that I'm in some way funny.
Two people retweeted me.
Two total strangers.
Victory! Wow, I'm a regular Carrot Top! (I stink).
And don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking feedback. That would be ridiculous. Feedback, be it negative or positive, is essential for any artist of any kind. Also, I'm not even knocking Twitter. Twitter is fun. I like writing jokes. I like reading jokes. I love how the platform aggregates news stories. How did I learn of the recent Oklahoma tornado? Twitter. As it should have been, it was trending. I'm a strong proponent of the medium.
In fact, I'm not necessarily slamming anything. What I'm doing is shining a light on something that many people may be guilty of, but also be blissfully unaware of. And it's not even a problem. What it is is human nature. We want people to like us. Try and deny it all you want, but it's true. And social media allows, in a sense, for some instant gratification in regards to that innate desire.
You can take a picture. You can write a status update. You can tweet something. Hell, now you can Vine (*editor's note: or Insta-video for that matter) something. And via a cell phone, tablet or computer of any kind, another human can validate that what you did, however entertaining or awful it may be, was worth the time you spent doing it.
Is that a bad thing? A good thing? That's for you to decide.
And if I'm being honest, which in these articles I always am, I'll probably refresh this page countless times today looking for page counts, likes and comments.
I'm just being honest. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go. Time to update my Top 8 on Myspace.