Believe it or not, there is an Internet full of people hoping you’ll do exactly what the title of this post says— don’t actually read their work, just have an emotional reaction to their title. They’d also appreciate it if you “liked” and “forwarded” it, if it’s not too much trouble.
That’s kind of the world in which we live. Content creators (writers, producers, social media strategists, all the people who actually write the words in these blog posts and quote pictures we forward around our Facebooks) often don’t churn out their products so they’ll actually get read, or thought about, or, God forbid, somehow change peoples’ lives. They put things on the Internet to build brand awareness; to gain attention; to get as popular as is practical without you catching on that that’s what they’re doing.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you. There’s nothing wrong with building brand awareness on the Internet. Hell, that’s part of what this blog, and what my professional Facebook page are all about. The more people who see and like my things on Facebook, the more people I have paying attention to the things I say, the more lives I can positively affect. That is consistent with my personal and professional life goals.
That said: it’s really, really important, as we like and love and forward and repost things we come across online, that we’re actually reading and digesting what we’re forwarding and commenting upon and giving a “thumbs up.”
Well, for starters, we can end up looking kind of silly if we don’t read something, but instead just post a gut-level emotional reaction to its title in a comments section.
For example, last Tuesday, my blog post was titled, “Suck it up and mourn your losses.” Those who actually read the article know that my title was actually making fun of people who approach loss and mourning with a “suck it up” attitude; that, instead, we have to give ourselves time, space, and compassion to mourn our losses, even the little ones. But there was a subset of people who chose to comment on that blog entry, not realizing that its title was tongue-in-cheek; and, consequently, ended up informing the world, via their comments, that they were the type of people who couldn’t be bothered to read past the title (but could be bothered to post a comment).
But another, really important reason we need to be carefully reading and digesting the things we like and forward and repost online is because our self-esteem is inextricably entwined with the degree to which we think for ourselves as opposed to just parroting someone else’s thoughts or views.
“Self esteem,” when we break it down, is not a complicated concept. It is the esteem in which we hold ourselves. The reputation we acquire of ourselves. The opinions we form about what kind of a person we are, what we deserve, what we should and shouldn’t tolerate for ourselves.
Our self-esteem is important, because if we develop low self-esteem— if we come to dislike and disrespect ourselves— we will be resistant to doing the things we need to do to improve our lives and reach our goals.
Nobody is particularly inclined to work hard on behalf of someone we dislike or disrespect. People with low self-esteem settle for less than they deserve; they aren’t motivated to use their talents and skills; and, since they often feel they don’t “deserve” happiness, won’t do the things that need to be done to become and remain happy.
Self-esteem has many components, but one of its most basic principles is: our brains pay attention to how we behave. We observe ourselves all the time, and those observations inform the esteem in which we hold ourselves, the reputation we acquire with ourselves.
If we behave in ways that we wouldn’t respect in others, if we behave in ways that violate our own values system, it takes a toll on our self-esteem, whether we know it or not in the moment.
Actually reading and thinking about things, especially the things that are shoved at us online, is one of those behaviors our brains pay attention to. People who struggle with self-esteem distrust their own judgment, so they often look to others to tell them how to think, what to think, what to believe. They’re immensely relieved when they come across something online that seems to remove the necessity of actually thinking— something they can just like, or forward, or comment on, even though they’ve only read the post title.
Your brain notices your choices, whether to think or not think. Your self-esteem registers it.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I often go out of my way to challenge you. I don’t just write snappy titles that lead to easily-swallowed platitudes. Half of my blog entries make people angry enough to write me emails or leave nasty comments, some of which are reflective of my blog’s actual content, some of which seem to be knee-jerk reactions to their titles. But my goal, always, whether you agree with what I have to say or not, is to get you to THINK— because in getting you to think, rather than just existing on autopilot, I’m forcing you to perform one of the basic tasks that self-esteem requires.
Yes, yes, you’re welcome.
Now. Let’s go see how many commenters actually think I meant the title of this blog entry literally. If you read this far, way to go— we’re in this fight for self-esteem together.