| thoughts on selflessness and social media

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Examples of good deeds are everywhere to be seen on the internet, and in their majority they are great examples that can help to balance out the onslaught of negative and distressing news we hear everyday. But is it still possible to simply do a good deed for someone else without requiring something in return? Be it a simple thank you, congratulations, a mention in an article or news story online, or even a gift?

Social media is a tool that is used in positive and negative ways, and while I think it's great that amazing stories of people helping others out are published online, I always feel a little sceptical when the individual in question has taken it upon themselves to share it online. Yes, it's fantastic that you've been volunteering in a country more unfortunate than yours, yes you gave money to a homeless man in the street, by all means it's something to feel proud of. What intrigues me is what the individual seeks to gain in return from sharing it. 

Selflessness, or altruism is carrying out an action in which you seek nothing in return. Doing good things for other people undoubtedly makes us feel good about ourselves, we are looking past our needs to adhere to those of someone else. But is simply knowing that you've made someone else happy still enough for do-gooders? The recent "news" story about Essena O'Neill the former Instagram famous Aussie has brought in lots of opinions on her decisive action to quit all social media (and pulled in for her many more followers hypocritically).

As many have said, the irony of her feeling the need to share it on her social media accounts surely contradicts what she's trying to say about social media? Granted, she has made valid points that it can be all consuming, and can lead to comparing yourself to others. However, I honestly wouldn't say that she's done anything life-changing or revolutionary. She made plenty of points that her posts simply seeked validation and gratification, which inevitably leads to us feeling empty inside. If truly Essena had made this decision to help herself, she would have just quit and carried on.

The problem emerges here that she felt the need to create lots of noise about something that didn't really need to be shouted about. The truth of the matter is that her followers perhaps wouldn't have even noticed had she stopped posting and disappeared quietly, to be frank they wouldn't have cared at all. This therefore explains why she created such a hoo-hah (I love that word) before her departure. She needed validation and congratulations to make her feel like an even better person for her good deed.

And this takes me back to the impact that social media has had on altruism. We are billions of people constantly wanting to be seen, heard or even admired by people who carry no importance to us. Obviously not everyone aims to do this, social media is what you make of it, and for some being seen or heard doesn't matter at all. But I do think it has changed our perspective on what might constitute being a good person. We shouldn't need an extra pat on the back from others to feel fulfilled and happy, it is our daily interactions and things we do for other people that give us satisfaction.

Thanks for reading! What are your thoughts? Is it still possible to do something good without needing something in return?

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