Is Our Use of Social Media All About Self Promotion?

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It is no secret that people use social media in different ways and for different reasons. Some people seek meaningful social interactions with others. They rarely share links but ask questions to stimulate discussion. They respond to almost everyone who engages with them. Others rely on social media to promote their work. They often share links to their own writing, videos, art, or other content. They may be somewhat less engaged with others because their goals differ.

Remembering these differences can be helpful when a platform collapses or becomes inhospitable. Some suggested alternatives may be great for engagement and lousy for promotion. Others might be effective for promotion but poor at engagement. We shouldn't expect users to move to a platform that isn't helpful in meeting their needs.

The cynic in me has been wondering whether all social media use boils down to self-promotion of some sort. I can say that I seek interaction, but doesn't that mean I want others to pay attention to me? I may be after interaction, but I'm after interaction centered on me, right? Isn't that a form of self-promotion?

If I write something on a blog and then share a link to it on social media, we all recognize this as self-promotion. I'm sharing the link to my work because I want others to click on it. I want them to read what I have written. I want them to interact with it and share it with others. But isn't my use of social media, regardless of what I share, serving a similar function?

Pay attention to me! Look at my selfies. Don't I look sexy in that outfit? See the picture of the incredible meal I cooked. Check out these photos of my pets. Can I tell you for the 300th time about my diagnosis? Here's a description of what I did today.

These common examples seem different from an author promoting their writing. But don't they involve promotion of some sort? Aren't they about promoting oneself?

Why do we do this? Is it because we crave the validation of strangers? Many of us would say we do this because we seek to be part of an online community. We don't see it as self-promotion but as participation. Is that accurate, or are we deceiving ourselves?

I like to help others. Being helpful to others is where I find much of my value. It feels good when others express appreciation when I try to help. The fact that it feels good doesn't cheapen the experience for me. But it does make me wonder if even my efforts to help strangers could be a form of self-promotion. At least, I know I am deriving some benefit when I do so.

I often see people condemn those who use social media to promote their work in more traditional ways. "Nobody cares about your damn book!" But many of the same people think somebody cares about what their lunch looked like. Nobody does.

What if it is all self-promotion? What if this is our way of trying to convince ourselves that our lives have meaning? If that's the case, could that be part of why so many of us feel dissatisfied with the time we invest in social media?

Image by John Paul Edge from Pixabay