Along with connection, we have an innate need to belong. It’s a basic human need and is, infact, necessary for our well being. The Belong Theory, according to Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary, states “humans have a fundamental motivation to be accepted into relationships with others and to be a part of social groups. The fact that belongingness is a need means that human beings must establish and maintain a minimum quantity of enduring relationships.”
I’m sure you’ve heard the commercials from the beginning of the pandemic: “We’re all in this together.” No one wants to feel they are going through life alone. The feeling of belonging can be translated to: am I accepted? Do I matter? Am I not alone in this world?
How does this need relate to social media?
Social media is a place we go to feel like we belong and feel we are important to others. It’s where we share news, stories, funny memes, or Tik Toks. It’s where we cultivate friendships. It’s our community.
This all sounds good! So, what’s the problem?
Social media can help us feel like we belong but it also shows us when we don’t belong. And we can’t escape seeing it.
When we weren’t invited to a party before social media, it felt bad. We would sit home, knowing they were having fun without us. We’d know we weren’t included. Maybe we’d even hear about the event the next day. It was painful.
But now, we not only aren’t included, we see first hand that we aren’t included. We can watch the fun going on without us. It’s like a mirror showing us we don’t belong and the fun is happening without us.
Social media makes it obvious to others too, when we don’t belong–causing embarrassment and sometimes shame for us. I see I don’t belong but now everyone else sees it too.
Social media opens the door to show when we aren’t included and threatens our feelings of belonging which leaves us feeling rejected. It stirs the pot of our insecurities. UGH! It can be so painful!
We hear a lot about FOMO (fear of missing out). But, it’s not just FOMO. It’s fear of not belonging. When we aren’t accepted by our peers, it can feel like we don’t matter.
It’s really important to name what we feel. Understanding the thoughts and feelings that come up with social media can help. We can all tend to scroll mindlessly and not realize how what we see impacts how we feel. Ask yourself if your sense of belonging is taking a hit when engaging with social media. If the answer is yes, make a conscious effort to change your use. If you know you weren’t invited to an event then don’t watch it happening. I know this can be soooo hard. But would you rather satisfy your curiosity or save your mental wellbeing?