People strive for perception, for social recognition and affirmation. Thumbs up for a good performance, a compliment on a new hairstyle - who doesn't like that? The digital world creates the ideal setting for this and has become a place where this can be done quickly and easily through clicks and likes. But why do we want more and more of it? What happens when we give too much importance to the voices from the web? Who are we online?
According to Digital Report 2021, 66 million Germans are active on social media, around 1.5 hours a day. They are often more than just sources of news: they are spaces for exchange, opinion-forming, self-expression and self-discovery. For young people in particular, social platforms like facebook, Instagram, TikTok play a major role in their own socialization. They are looking for role models, and their personalities have yet to develop and consolidate.
We determine ourselves who we are online
More than in real life, we can determine ourselves how we are perceived and what we want to share with others in the digital world. We also have control over what data we disclose or how far we want to go. In this way, Social Media can help us to find, develop and unfold our own personality. For example, by networking with people who are in a similar life situation and finding advice and support from them. Or by joining communities and groups that share the same interests or hobbies. The large number of different groups also allows people to look beyond their own horizons and thus raises awareness of diversity of opinion and democratic values.
When the greed for recognition and confirmation becomes addictive
But there are also downsides: If 100 likes make us happy today, they won't be enough tomorrow. We strive for more. Guaranteed feedback, recognition and the permanent confirmation of one's own opinion act like a drug. We receive the social recognition for which we would do almost anything. We emulate others, want to be as perfect as they are, and feel bad when we're not.
Just as the digital world gives us the opportunity for self-determined development, it also takes away our standards from the real world: it disinhibits. Science refers to this as the "online disinhibition effect". What is meant is that we lose our self-control much faster in chats or comments due to the anonymity of the Internet. Either because we can show our true colors there without being shy or because we allow ourselves to be seduced into behaving much more extremely in order to please others or get attention. If we ourselves become the victim of hatred, agitation and insults, it causes great suffering and pain. We question our self-image and, in the worst case, begin to change the way we think others want us to be - the way the web wants us to be.
Understanding how the digital world works
It's not just young people who attach great importance to social media. For many, they have long since become a daily companion. But who among us takes the time to critically question who we want to be online, what value we place on social media, or why we strive so hard for recognition online?
This is one of the reasons why Telekom, with various initiatives and together with many partner organizations, is campaigning for more media and democratic skills. Anyone who understands how the digital world works and how it works can benefit much more from it, use its advantages for themselves and make it a place where everyone feels comfortable.