The Power and Perils of Being Liked

Being liked. Am I too motivated by approval?

This question has been percolating for at least a month. In fact, I considered making this subject the launch into the New Year. But, as with many topics, I needed a bit of reflection first. Now, I’m ready to share my musings.

Why, you might ask, is being liked relevant to this blog? As I enter year four of ItalyWise, I’ve been asking myself how influenced my writing is by a need to please other people and generate comments and subscriptions as validation. I ask myself if I’m willing to “damn the torpedoes” and be unflinchingly true to myself. Do I compare myself to others too much? Am I chasing a definition of success that is measured by likes?

Fortunately, after much reflection, I can safely say I am being true to myself––most of the time. Still, I often let my finger hover over the publish button, wondering if I’ve written something that might offend someone. When I published the article about dancing with both life and death, four people immediately unsubscribed. Did they feel like I did a bait and switch? Was I getting too heavy? I’m sure there are plenty of logical reasons for the unsubscriptions, but it caused me to pause and wince. Did people suddenly not like me?

But, then I received some of the most amazing comments and emails. People were supportive, and some even said it was my best work yet. So, what if a few apples fell off the tree? It’s about quality, not quantity. Right? It reinforced my resolve to write and feature topics that are important and meaningful to me, even if it rattles some cages.

Being liked is a powerful drug.

I’m not the only person who believes that social media thrives largely on the validation people get from people liking their posts. Studies have shown that likes stimulate the brain to release feel-good chemicals. Consider the following statement:

“Facebook stimulates the release of loads of dopamine as well as offering an effective cure to loneliness.”
– Psychology Today – Your Brain and Facebook (I urge you to read the online article).

It could be so easy to say this only applies to other people. I look at my own behavior and my history and I know I could have easily, at one time, stood up at a Like-Aholics meeting and say “Hi, my name is Jed and I’m addicted to being liked.” I know I was insufferable at times, constantly checking my phone for Facebook likes, and feeling elated or, conversely, deflated by how much attention I was getting and how many thumbs up and comments I was getting.

When being liked came to a head for me.

During the 2016 presidential election. I was on Facebook so much, checking the status of the posts linked to my blog posts AND jumping into the fray of political debate, that my head felt like it was going to blow clear off my shoulders. It would’ve been easy to blame the raging political debate on my increasingly sour mood, but I’d been feeling empty well before that. I realized I was putting too much of my validation in Facebook well before the election. One week after the election, I wrote a message on my Facebook page, explaining I was bowing out, and encouraging people to become direct subscribers to my blog if they still wanted to engage with me. Then I hit the “delete account” button.

I can’t tell you how much lighter I felt, immediately, and how much more time I had on my hands to devote to other things that fed my soul without just giving me a temporary high.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not chastising Facebook or other social media. I know the value they provide in networking and staying in touch. In fact, it was a primary way for me to stay in touch with people back in the States after I’d moved to Italy. But, I confess, I didn’t use social media with healthy restraint and balance. And, rather than going completely cold turkey, I turned to Instagram as my social outlet, since I could speak with my photography and dispense with too much chatter.

But, I still feel the pressure.

It’s self-imposed, and it’s a result of a lingering need to be liked. Will I lose engagement if I don’t post a photo on Instagram every day? Will people lose interest in my blog if I skip a week or two to give myself a break? These are questions that continue to influence me. But what I absolutely want to do more of is only posting when it feels right and when it is a subject (visual or written) that sits well in my gut and isn’t driven by a conditioned brain that wants me to engage in behavior that will deliver a temporary hit of dopamine.

Writing and maintaining a blog is hard work. I love doing it and sharing my story and the wisdom I’ve gained by living the journey––both logistically and emotionally. I love being the resource that I would have liked to have found when I was in my preparatory phase. I guess it’s my way giving back and being thankful for having navigated it all without throwing in the towel and running back “home” to the familiar.

My vision for the future of ItalyWise:

I will continue to share pearls of wisdom as my life in Italy moves out of the novice phase and into the long-term experience. But, I see a shift to telling more stories of my life here through my photography and art. In other words, I’m going to let those things take the lead more often. And, I won’t steer away from subjects that I feel are important, yet might not have mass appeal.

I love engaging with my subscribers, so please keep the comments and emails coming. And, suggestions for topics are always welcome.

In closing, I believe life is asking me to keep stripping away the stuff that prevents me from living fully and authentically. And, that means not being unduly influenced by being liked!

 

 

By |2019-01-19T21:21:08+00:00January 25th, 2018|Personal musings|32 Comments

About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!

32 Comments

  1. Yasmin Rivera February 7, 2018 at 8:51 am - Reply

    Hi Jed, yes the package was registered. I too have pulled back from Facebook. If I post pics of our house in Italy I feel like we’re being viewed through a microscope. Friends we haven’t seen in years are thrilled for us yet family & close friends don’t say anything.

    • Jed February 11, 2018 at 12:19 am - Reply

      Hi, Yasmin. I’ve become increasingly more circumspect about what I share via social media. I don’t even like sharing more than an occasional selfie! I’m being much more selective in how I utilize social. I have extrovert qualities, but I’m more inclined to introversion!

  2. Chip Meeks February 6, 2018 at 5:03 pm - Reply

    “Like”

    Just giving you a shot of dopmamine before you carry on with your day! And thanks for “Paying it forward!” For the folks thinking about moving to Italy! Have a great rest of your week Jed!

    • Jed February 7, 2018 at 2:42 am - Reply

      Hit of dopamine gratefully received! Let’s hope I don’t get addicted.

  3. Rachel February 1, 2018 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    Ciao Jed.
    I definitely hear you on this post. I get sick of Facebook reminding me that my followers haven’t hears from me in a while.. And i don’t want to be dependent on social media or worry about everyone’s approval all the time, either! So glad that you found a social media outlet where you can express yourself in a relaxed way. Yay Instagram. We will have to meet up in Venice one of these days. Or you can venture over to Friuli and we will go get some frico!

    • Jed February 1, 2018 at 6:53 pm - Reply

      Ciao, Rachel. Glad to know I’m in good company! I’m all up for meeting up in Venice or Friuli. Simone’s eyes roll back in his head and his mouth waters at the mere mention of frico! We have good friends in Udine, and have been there several times. Let’s figure this out. Looking forward to meeting you in person!

      • Rachel February 6, 2018 at 2:53 pm - Reply

        Woo hoo! This is definitely something to organize. I haven’t been to get frico in a while and I do know a good place, too. Maybe later in Feb?

        • Jed February 6, 2018 at 3:28 pm - Reply

          Sounds good! I’ll look forward to it!

  4. Melanie Garthwaite January 25, 2018 at 7:46 pm - Reply

    Hi Jed. I am just sitting here quietly on a cool summer morning having a cup of tea and reading your blog. It was a brave thing to write and I sincerely admire you for it.
    I have found your insights and advice in previous blogs to be invaluable especially with planning a life in Italy ourselves ( only part time I have to say).
    So thank you from the heart.
    Melanie

    • Jed January 25, 2018 at 9:13 pm - Reply

      Melanie, I so appreciate your support. I believe there is so much power in encouraging one another to go further by sharing the deeper aspects of big life changes. Italy has expanded the aperture of my life in so many ways, and I’m grateful that even the uncomfortable bumps in the road are helping me to grow! Jed

  5. Kevin January 25, 2018 at 6:32 pm - Reply

    Jed, I couldn’t find the “Like” button on your site so I guess I’ll have to write actual words! You are very generous in your approach to this blog. It’s a great resource and goes well beyond logistics…it gets into the journey itself….and the lens through which you experience the voyage. This is at the heart of a life changing move….something that is blatantly absent from most travel/expat blogs….and something that feels much more real and meaningful. +1

    • Jed January 25, 2018 at 9:10 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Kevin. I like that I don’t have a like button on my blog. Funny, isn’t it? When I started the blog I had visions of being the sage counsel for people embarking upon a similar journey. But, like life, that evolved and changed, and my courage gathered steam and I decided to put more of myself “out there”. I realize some people are only shopping for advice about the logistics, and that’s absolutely fine. But, I feel as though I’d be holding myself back if I didn’t go further and speak to the less “black and white” aspects of such a huge life change. I so appreciate your support and your participation in the conversation! Jed

  6. Kit Williams January 25, 2018 at 5:33 pm - Reply

    I’ve always LIKED you. ❤️

    • Jed January 25, 2018 at 9:04 pm - Reply

      Likewise, dear friend!

  7. Robin Fink January 25, 2018 at 5:19 pm - Reply

    Hey Jed,
    What a great post!! Love it. I unsubscribed from Facebook years ago, as I did not want to interact with my friends so publicly. I want to have personal relationships on a one-to-one basis. I have also found social media makes everyone else’s life look so interesting and glamorous, and that can breed a certain amount of comparison and envy. This is YOUR blog, Jed. You are so right to post about what you want. I love to read your posts along with the photos. I can only imagine how much work goes into each post. Thank You. xxo, Robin
    p.s. may I look at your Instagram account?

    • Jed January 25, 2018 at 9:04 pm - Reply

      Hey Robin. I always love hearing from you. I think it’s a rare person who finds a healthy balance between a social presence and real, in-person relationships. I know I haven’t always been successful in that regard. Society conditions us to find validation in the “numbers”, whether it’s FB, YouTube, Twitter etc. Hopefully, one day I will be able to say I utilize those outlets in healthy ways vs. being run by them! I’d love it if you checked out my Instagram account, it’s under ItalyWise. I love speaking with photos.

  8. Tom January 25, 2018 at 4:46 pm - Reply

    Keep it up Jed

    • Jed January 25, 2018 at 8:57 pm - Reply

      I’ll do my best, Tom. Thank you!

  9. GN January 25, 2018 at 3:53 pm - Reply

    Thanks for your honesty. Chasing approval has probably always been a part of the human condition but has been intensified to an alarming degree by social media. (The people who created the “Like” icon knew exactly what they were doing.) Seeking validation outside of oneself always leads to a life out of balance. Coming back to your center sounds like exactly the sound and healthy thing to do.
    The irony of fashioning one’s message to garner approval is that most people are really hungry for an honest voice, and there are probably more who would identify with your genuine experience than you might think.
    Wishing you all the best in this new approach to your work.

    • Jed January 25, 2018 at 8:56 pm - Reply

      And, thank you for your words of encouragement. I’m slowly working my way towards finding my center and expressing my authentic self, scary as that is at times. I’ll endeavor to keep exploring and putting myself “out there”!

  10. Mark Hanson January 25, 2018 at 3:36 pm - Reply

    I love your posts because it feels like we are talking and I learn new things about you but I am not clear about why such personal introspection are part of a blog about living in Italy. I don’t know who unsubscribed but I suspect they were casual readers who were looking for travel and living information. No friend would do that.

    • Jed January 25, 2018 at 8:54 pm - Reply

      Thanks, my friend. I’m so glad you love my posts and that they feel like personal conversations! We’ve had some many great ones, haven’t we? As for the personal introspection, I feel as though I would be doing a disservice to people considering a move to Italy, or to any other country for that matter, without addressing the personal implications, which can be plentiful. I know many people are simply looking for useful logistical information in planning and making their move, and maybe by subscribing to my blog, they’re getting more than they wanted. I want to honor that and not take offense if they unsubscribe. It’s a big lesson for me to allow all points of view without taking anything personally! Miss you, Jed

  11. Joyce Beckett January 25, 2018 at 3:08 pm - Reply

    I have enjoyed all of your posts and I give you two thumbs up for this one! 🙂 You put into words so many things I have thought myself, Jed. Keep up the good work and try not to give a rat’s rotor what other people think…Joyce

    • Jed January 25, 2018 at 8:47 pm - Reply

      Grazie mille, Joyce! I’m so glad to know we share many of the same musings. I’ll endeavor “not to give a rat’s rotor what other people think” (I love that!). Jed

  12. Linda Bertani January 25, 2018 at 2:40 pm - Reply

    Grazie, Jed. You have eloquently reflected so many of my same feelings and experiences with social media. As you said, there is value in the networks. If not for FB, I (likely) would not have found the Dual Citizenship group and learned of my eligibility nor been guided in that process for myself and 14 others in my family. Whaaaat?!! I struggle with continuing FB because of those things and my (apparent) lack of discipline in not occasionally getting sucked back into the political comment vortex. 😉 I also have a business that relies upon keeping the connections in more than just the infrequent newsletter. I keep wondering if I could drop the personal one and just use the biz one. Sigh. And, as someone who has also struggled with the truth in writing … I also found comfort in your musings. ANYway … thank you again.

    • Jed January 25, 2018 at 8:45 pm - Reply

      Hi, Linda. Thanks for your comments, which help round out what I was trying to communicate. I believe social media can be powerful and incredibly useful on many levels, but it can also be seductive and all-consuming in other ways. It’s all about balance––something life is teaching me through trial and error! As for truth in writing, it can be a bit like standing naked in front of a big audience. Maybe, for me, growing older is helping me be braver in this regard! Jed

  13. Greg January 25, 2018 at 11:53 am - Reply

    Thank you for allowing your writing to reflect your personal evolution. Travel to another country is a transformational journey and the ‘new eyes’ through which we see the world are the big news.

    • Jed January 25, 2018 at 8:39 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Greg, for recognizing the importance of the “personal evolution” that comes with making such a huge life change. I believe many people are so focused on the logistical aspects that they are sometimes blindsided by the emotional and psychological aspects! I’m learning this, more and more, every day. And, I’m appreciating how life is teaching me to open up. Jed

  14. Yasmin January 25, 2018 at 11:39 am - Reply

    Your blog has been invaluable to me. My husband and I bought a house in Italy two years ago and have been renovating ever since. I was in Italy last year for 4 months dealing with contractors, no show plumber, great electrician and a very young architect while my husband was back in New Jersey working. I emailed him every day with updates and photos of what was done. Not easy with the nuances in the Italian language dealing with many different personalities. Needless to say the work was only half done that we wanted to accomplish. In September my husband was offered a position in Europe and he decided to accept it. We moved to Madrid the beginning of January. We brought our 13 year old cat with us. I read your adventures with your cats a few times. I’m trying to get brave enough to take driving lessons and learn to drive a manual car here in Spain before I attempt to get a license in Italy. Thanks for your blog posts!

    • Jed January 25, 2018 at 8:30 pm - Reply

      Hi, Yasim! I’m so glad you’ve found Italywise of value. Having talked to so many people going through renovations, and having done one myself, I can relate to the ongoing saga. It certainly teaches a person to “roll with the punches” doesn’t it? Madrid is a wonderful city. I can only imagine the experiences you’re having there. To be able to head over to the Prado at whim is something of which I’m envious. If you can navigate the Spanish driver’s license tests (can you take the written one in English) and secure your license there, then you can transfer it to Italy without having to go through the daunting process here. In bocca al lupo with your future adventures! Jed

      • Yasmin January 27, 2018 at 8:09 pm - Reply

        Thanks for letting me know about taking the written exam here in Spain. We will be looking into it. Again I want to say I read your blog because it describes life in Italy as it really is. There’s a lot to navigate and patience is mandatory. I spent 2 hours at the post office to mail a package to the United States. You need a codice fiscale here to do everything. I didn’t know mine but the ladies at the post office were nice enough to look it up for me. Even paying bills you need your code. Then realizing bills are paid at the post office or at the Tabacchi has been another learning experience. Sometimes frustrating but always interesting life is good in Italy.

        • Jed January 29, 2018 at 3:48 pm - Reply

          Hi Yasmin. As usual, depending on where you are in Italy things are handled differently. When I have sent things to the States I’ve never been asked for my codice fiscale. Was your shipment/letter registered? If so, that might explain things. I’m still learning about what can be paid at the tabacchi and what must be paid through the post office or through a bank transfer. I can’t say that it is clear. But, I’m getting a better idea. And, then there is the ability to pay with bancomat (debit card) in some instances, and in others they require cash. Italy is many wonderful things, but the proliferation of steps and hurdles in the bureaucratic process isn’t one of them! Jed

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