September 30, 2022 | OPINION | By Karly Hamilton | Illustration by Sydney Morris

There has been much discussion and research in recent history regarding social media and its impact on mental health. Whether it’s comparing yourself to others on the internet or feeling excluded from an event all your friends posted about, but you weren’t invited to, there are many ways in which social media can hurt your mental health. With all these negatives, why bother with social media in the first place?

As Psychology Today reports, social media can “feed into excessive reassurance-seeking behaviors and unhealthy attempts at getting validation from others..”

Some examples the article shares include someone who suffers from body image concerns sharing a revealing image on social media and feeling better about themselves after receiving likes and comments, someone that feels lonely sharing tweets about their feelings and being reassured by strangers that “things will get better,” or someone having issues with their partner or spouse and posting pictures of their “happy family” on Facebook to temporarily feel better about the situation.

All these things are an example of relying on others to feel good about who we are or a situation we might be faced with. But what about seeking out validation for our actions?

That’s where the “Am I the Asshole?” Reddit thread comes in.

I first stumbled across this thread on Instagram, my feed started to include videos and posts screenshotted from the Reddit page. The premise of the thread is for people to make posts describing a scenario and the actions they took. Other users respond, informing them if they are in fact the asshole or if they are not the asshole in their situation.

The community description on Reddit describes the thread as, “A catharsis for the frustrated moral philosopher in all of us, and a place to finally find out if you were wrong in an argument that’s been bothering you.. give us both sides of the story, and find out if you’re right, or you’re the asshole.”

There are a wide range of topics posted in the thread, ranging from sharing embarrassing stories about a friend to rescinding a wedding invite over the color of a guest’s dress, or cutting down a tree without telling the neighbors ahead of time.

While I find these quite fascinating to read — and an easy rabbit hole to get sucked into — I don’t understand why people feel the need to seek out the opinion of others. Are they genuinely confused and asking a question so they can better themselves? Or are they just looking for people to side with them and agree with their decision?

Regardless of the reasoning, I wonder how this affects the way we view ourselves. I have, and will continue to make my share of mistakes but I’m often able to recognize that, apologize, correct my wrongs when possible and move on. While understanding where I went wrong is sometimes made easier with input from others, that is often when I speak to my parents or a trusted friend. If the situation is more severe, I will talk to a therapist. But strangers on the internet?

We all are different people, and many of us meet our needs in different ways. If posting on social media helps remind you of the positive events in your life, I’m happy for you. If seeking advice from strangers on Reddit helps you view your actions in a different light, I’m glad you’ve found what works for you. In the process of doing so, however, I urge people to think about the long-term effects of these actions. Is the support we receive from online platforms today impacting us negatively in the long run?

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