The danger of social media stats

Next time you agnoise over the number of ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ on your social media – stop and regain your instrinsic motivation!

Don’t get sucked in by the ‘Ronaldo phenomenon’ trap.

Ronaldo announced his transfer to Manchester United on Instagram and inspired 13 million people to press ‘like’.

His iconic ‘Ronaldo 7’ replica kit broke the daily record for shirt sales!

If only you could be like Ronaldo.

You refresh your LinkedIn in the hope of seeing more than 3 comments, 6 likes and 50 views.

It was a great post. What’s the matter with everyone!


Let’s come back down to earth.

Ask yourself this question:

Am I measuring my meaningfulness with the metric of likes, loves and followers?

What if, without realising it, those metrics aren’t just a by-product of your point of posting — they are the whole point?

Jonathan Liew posed this very question in an article about Ronaldo in the Guardian recently and it got me thinking.

But first – I should make it clear that I do not harbour a hatred of all things social media –  I am not a Luddite sticking pins into Tim Berners-Lee.

In fact there are many things about social media that I love.

Such as – the invitation to explore and meet people from every corner of the globe.


I am also aware of how our sense of reality and meaningfulness is tricked by social media.

It is easy to lose perspective in the world of blue thumbs and red hearts.

After all – we are only human – and humans love to be loved.

And humans strive for more.

Consider this observation about us humans.

 ‘Grandiosity is a form of primal energy we all possess. It impels us to want something more than we have, to be recognized and esteemed by others, and to feel connected to something larger. The problem is not with the energy itself, which can be used to fuel our ambitions, but with the direction it takes.’  Robert Greene

Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky reminds us that our happiness is messed up by the ‘hedonic adaptation’ treadmill.

The what?

The treadmill we stay on through our desire to seek more, get it, want more, feel unsatisfied and want more!

We move into a better house in a better neighbourhood — but then look around at other houses that are better…. and we can’t feel the happiness we expected… because we are now comparing and coming up short!

Consider this human trait in the context of our search for meaning and happiness in the tally of ‘likes’ ‘loves’ and ‘follows’ on our social media platforms.

It fits doesn’t it.

You see, we are not pathetically needy or nauseatingly narcissistic — we are just humans lured by powerful forces.

And when we are lured, what should we do?

We should press pause on our feelings, thoughts and actions!

We must open our eyes before we get ‘caught in the landslide’ of confused messages about what it is to be meaningful , happy and successful.

Is there more to it than pressing pause?

What is the antidote to the tyranny of superficial ‘likes’?

I have already mentioned the conscious ‘press pause’ habit, but here are a few more habits that in time can become unconscious behaviours:-

  • Engage more than broadcasting.
  • Value the genuine listener more than the lazy ‘liker’.

‘Being present, whether with children, with friends, or even with oneself, is always hard work. But isn’t this attentiveness, the feeling that someone is trying to think about us — something we want more than praise? Stephen Grosz

  • Find the joy in the creation more than the ‘reach’ numbers.

‘The greater sense of gratfication comes from the work itself and from overcoming our own weaknesses. The desire for attention is under control and subordinate. Our self-esteem is raised, but it is tied to real achievements, not to nebulous, subjective fantasies. We feel our presence enlarged through our work, through what we contribute to society.’ Theodore Zeldin

‘If you have any success with your projects, that is when you must step back from the attention you are receiving. Look at the role that luck may have played, or the help you received from others. Resist falling for the success delusion.’ Theodore Zeldin

A final thought…

Old self-portrait like social media selfie Trisha Lewis Blog

William Matthew Prior – a self-portrait example

Maybe the posed and polished selfie is as meaningless as the gilt-framed self-portrait painted and hung by an isolated, anti-social artist.

We understand ourselves through conversation.

To be curious and seek out those conversations is meaningful.

Back to where I began, with the article about Ronaldo.

Your meaningfulness is not measured by — ‘the sit ups you do, the online degree you take, the pearlised mica-white anti-dandruff shampoo’ you use.. or your 315.81 million followers (could be more by now).

Your meaningfulness is measured by your resilient desire to explore and learn from the real world.