Validation is a funny thing. We live in a century that’s built from it; “The Validation Generation” as some call it. You see it everywhere you look, lurking in the dark corners of the room, creeping its way through crowds, and finally finding it seeping into your soul.

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If you really think about it, that’s all social media is. One big plea for approval. It’s built off likes and followers, quantity over quality. Numbers are everything in the kingdom of Instagram. You are considered a more valued human based off how many likes you can get from your selfies. I feel like it’s turned into one big popularity contest. It can even affect the way people look at themselves in the mirror. How did the click of a button become one of our generation’s most powerful weapons?

However, before social media became this big bad wolf ready to blow everyone’s confidence away, it was used to help build relationships. Yes, it does have good traits, it allows us to connect with loved ones and friends that we can no longer see face to face, and it also adds entertainment value and worldly knowledge. Personally, I love Instagram, twitter Facebook etc., I use them all the time and I would be lying if I said I never posted anything without looking for others approval. How could you not?!

That’s the thing about validation, it’s extremely satisfying. With each click you can instantly boost yours or someone else’s self-esteem. Let’s admit we do use this to our advantage. Everyone has been in that situation where they’re mad at their friend, so they purposefully don’t give them the gratification of their like on their most current post. It’s a strategic game of war over likes. That’s our way of showing we don’t approve, they don’t get our like = they don’t get our blessing.

Why do the number of likes have the power to change the way someone looks at themselves? Everyone wants to be liked no matter how much they deny it. Everyone likes being told they look good in that dress or their new hairstyle looks good on them. Everyone likes the affirmation that they’re doing something right with their life. We go to social media to get this affirmation. The more likes you receive means the more together your life is. However, when we rely on social media to feel these ways, we are placing our self-validation in the viral hands of the internet.

Before we know it, we are spun into an never-ending game of imitating perfection. We begin to compare ourselves to our peers, taking note of the amount of likes she got from slurping a margarita in a bikini on Panama City Beach verusus your most recent selfie with your dog. We begin to feel this pressure to be socially acceptable. Going out no longer means a night on the town with your friends but rather going out to take the perfect picture that will get us just as many likes as the girl drinking her pretty little margarita. We then lose ourselves in pretending to be someone we’re not. The focus strays from our own individuality to becoming someone were not. We post what we think people want to see. Our profiles become a display of how perfect can we pretend our life is. However, we never realize that no matter how perfect our picture is we will never win this game because there will always be someone skinnier, someone prettier, or someone with more likes than you. As long as we continue to compare ourselves to other’s bikini pictures, we will always lose.

Another thing that we often forget about social media is, it’s not real life. Her perfect bikini picture is not an accurate depiction of the reality of the rest of her life. That picture and every other picture she posts is strategically posed to flaunt her best features. There is a mathematical algorithm to every girl’s profile. If paid attention to it’s easy to point out. For every one selfie, there are at least fifty other nearly identical pictures to go along with it, that didn’t fit the quota, and she purposefully chose not share with the rest of the world. Let’s face it, no matter how pretty you think a girl is, to her she has one “bad side” and “one good side”; and it’s usually easy to figure out which one it is because she will post a variety of different poses from that same angle, staging her perfect shot.

Obviously no one is going to post an ugly picture of themselves unless you have balls….then respect; but usually all you ever see are the ones that go under extreme examination before being broadcast to the world. So yes, that person you see has 50 other sides that they are choosing not to show.

I know this girl I used to be close with. She was always a big social media user but recently her accounts have really blown up. To maintain her perfect image, she erased a majority of her past pictures that received less than 250 likes or that no longer fit her standard of how she wants her life to be portrayed. Now it is clear that she only posts pictures of what she thinks her followers will like. It is clear that she is just another victim of social media’s validation ploy.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want this article to seem like I’m a jealous b**** because I can’t get as many likes as another girl. That is not at all what I meant by this. Personally, I do get frustrated with myself when I catch myself wondering why I didn’t get as many likes on my nearly identical picture as someone else. It’s frustrating and aggravating when someone can literally post a picture of a fork and get 20 retweets 50 likes and 10 comments when you can barely get a retweet your dog selfie. It’s hard not to feel a little less appreciated when you get nearly a hundred less likes on your bikini picture. It’s hard not feeling like that’s a hundred-less people giving their approval on your body. How could you not get caught up in the game of validation?! Why is that person any more special than yourself?

I give mad respect to the people who post whatever the f*** they want. Not every picture is perfect and not every picture has to get 500 likes for them to feel like a valuable human being. They post things that are true to themselves and I think that is what social media should be about. Posting pictures for you, pictures that make you happy and show your personality, rather than posting for others and likes. As Selena Gomez said in her VMA speech, “I don’t want to see your bodies, I want to see what’s in here,” as she pointed to her heart. I wish people would feel more free to post what is true to them instead of what they think others might like. So let’s see more selfies with your dog, or silly pictures of your friends, things that are special to you, and know that not every picture has to be perfect for you to be a perfectly valuable human. You don’t need social media to tell you just how beautiful of a human being you are.