Marc Maron on Social Media (Image by Timothy Krause / Flickr)

“It amazes me that we are all on Twitter and Facebook. By ‘we’ I mean adults. We’re adults, right? But emotionally, we’re a culture of seven-year-olds. Have you ever had that moment when you’re updating your status and you realize that every status update is just a variation on a single request: Would someone please acknowledge me?”

“You post it and you just wait it out. That first thumbs-up appears. Yes. All comments are then read as: ‘We see you, Marc.’ ‘We love you, Marc.’ ‘We care that you are there, Marc.’ Twitter and Facebook are my techno-parents, sating the child in me. But they are not beyond abusing him.”

Human beings are a social species. Even the most introverted among us needs some level of human interaction now and then. And perhaps that is why social media can be so appealing. It can provide a safe and guarded environment where we don’t have to fully expose ourselves. We only share what we want to share. And, if we feel threatened at any time, we can retreat from these online venues until we feel safe again.

And perhaps that is why there can be such a disconnect between the person that you truly are and the “character” that you play on Facebook. You’re far more likely to put forward the rock star version of yourself. This is the international jet-setter with all the shiny new toys, eating all this fancy exotic food. What people don’t see is the more mundane aspects of your life, like dealing with TPS reports at the office. And even when it’s mundane, like the commute to work, you only post the parts that might be of interest to others.

We think we share, because we are providing information or entertainment to our online friends and followers, but is that really the case? Stand-up comedian Marc Maron (best known for his WTF with Marc Maron podcast) doesn’t really think so. He thinks that the purpose is far more self-serving. What we are really seeking is acknowledgement. We want people to know that we exist. We want other people to tell us that we matter and that they care about us. Aside from snooping around on exes, this is likely the single greatest reason why people get addicted to Facebook in the first place. They want to be seen. They want to be valued.

I’m reminded of a joke I once heard: There’s a man walking around the lobby of a building. He has a confused look on his face and a parking stub in his hand. The attendant at the information kiosk reaches out and asks him, “Sir, are you looking for validation?” He replies, “Aren’t we all?”

We’re no different from children. Have you ever seen a hyper-active toddler who seems to be doing just about anything to get your attention? His or her goal is a simple one: look at me. Acknowledge me. Dogs do the same thing, for that matter. And so do we. We post our photos and status updates on social media, hoping for that “like,” that “+1” or that “RT.” We just want someone else to remind us that we exist and we matter.

Is that so bad?