Do we all just want to be validated?
I’ve been obsessed with digital “identities” for a long time. In previous issues of this newsletter, we explored digital identity in relation to web3 and beauty. Today, I want to explore how our socialized pursuit for validation has in fact defined our digital identity.
The fact of the matter is — how we present ourselves online is heavily influenced by the pursuit for validation, simply because of how platforms (and algorithms) have developed. For example, we post imagery to Instagram with a conscious understanding of what type of imagery will “perform” well. In my case, a picture of my physical form — my face, my body — gets 60% more engagement than a photo without me in it. I know the game, so I often post a photo of myself to Instagram whenever I want to amplify a Diem update, achievement, or conversation. But is this authentic? Not really. It’s the digital equivalent of wearing “sexy” clothes IRL — on a date, out to the bar on Halloween, to a pool party in middle school — because you’re inherently seeking approval from someone.
Women are uniquely good at pursuing validation. Why? Because we’ve been socialized to seek male validation, regardless of our sexuality, our entire lives.
“The tragedy is that most young girls show the same levels of social confidence as their male peers until they reach puberty,” writes Cam Sheppard in her recent Power Outlet article on the subject. “Between the ages of 8 and 14, young women experience a 30 percent drop in self-confidence while boys’ self-confidence grows (unfortunately, there has yet to be any research conducted on how non-binary children experience the confidence gap). American culture and media both tell women, directly and subliminally, that our power comes from how we perform sexuality and femininity. Although I was raised by a fierce feminist, the world around me taught me that if I adhered to beauty standards and received male attention, I would be successful.”
Our pursuit for male validation is so engrained around us that it often spills over onto our perception of other women. For example, have you ever caught yourself subconsciously hating on an objectively beautiful woman? I have, and it’s probably because I’ve been conditioned to view that beautiful woman as a competitive threat in the pursuit to “win” male attention. Sounds messed up right? Because it is! We have manicured, preened and “perfected” ourselves to meet relatively narrow and mostly impossible beauty standards for generations.
Sometimes, I feel like Instagram is just one big manifestation of this. On Instagram, women are called “influencers” and men are called “creators” despite the fact that women create content, make enormous sums, and wield significant power on the platform. Women, interestingly, are also the majority on Instagram (despite earning 30% less than men on the platform), which I notice anecdotally in my own friend group. Many of my male friends don’t post on Instagram, whereas every single one of my female friends has an active account. Is this because women have found more community on Instagram? Perhaps. Or maybe, as Sheppard says in her article, we’re simply looking to make up for the confidence we lost in our early teenage years. We all need to feel validated sometimes.
What do you think? Join the conversation in Diem.
This article was originally published in Diem’s weekly newsletter on June 7th 2022, subscribe here.