“I would rather post something relatable than aspirational right now,” says Gaurav Singh Bisen, explaining why it did not do so, when being able to raise money during a pandemic, especially from investors like Y Combinator, was a milestone of sorts for the 29-year-old from Bengaluru.
Milestones like these become benchmarks for others in the community.
“It sets expectations for other startups to also crack Y Combinator, for instance,” says Bisen, COO of Thunderpod.
At any other time, this would not have been a bad thing.
“But right now, a lot of people are fighting and not able to make it big. We didn’t want to shout from the rooftop that good things have happened to us,” he says, “even though it put us at a disadvantage while luring new talent to the company.”
It is like there’s a sudden filter in your head now every time you post something on social media, says Mumbai-based brand strategist Vaishnavi Lotlikar.
“I got a great job and a massive hike amid the pandemic and was able to take a holiday as well. I’m the kind of person who likes to flaunt her last vacation and a new job,” she says.
However, this time, she refrained from going click-caption-post.
“All I could think was how lucky I was because so many others would have wanted this job. I didn’t want anyone to feel lesser. I also didn’t want friends and family to feel burdened to react to my update when they were going through tough times,” says the 26-year-old.
For active social media users like Bisen and Lotlikar, social networks are not just a vessel to exhale into, they are also a means to validation. Sharing celebratory posts about them on these platforms, therefore, is a surefire way to raise their dopamine levels.
Yet, the recent change in their behaviour is not an anomaly, psychologists and anthropologists tell ET.
Several urban Indians, across age groups, are consciously avoiding sharing celebratory posts on social media of late, or putting them with adequate disclaimers that acknowledge their privilege.
Before the onset of Covid-19, they would go hammer and tongs broadcasting their personal or professional accomplishments.
Now, psychologists from tier-1 cities say, most of their clients feel it risks coming across as tone-deaf and insensitive, given the loss of life and livelihoods that people around them are having to deal with.
“Bad news has been on wholesale these past 12 months, whether people are impacted directly or not.”
“In such a scenario, posting about things like chilling in Goa felt like throwing it in the face of people who lost their jobs and had EMIs and school fees to pay,” says Kaushik Srinivasan, a strategy consultant from Hyderabad who has been careful about not posting personal or professional feats on social media this year.
“Social Media posts could demonstrate more empathy, given each one has a different challenge to cope up with,” he adds.
For instance, not everyone can travel even if they can afford to. Some have to take care of their ageing parents.
People, who otherwise concerned themselves with how others will ‘react to’ their posts, are now thinking about how others will ‘feel’ upon seeing their posts online.
“I would frequently post about my fitness routine on Instagram but am conscious of over-sharing now as I realise that not everyone has the resources and bandwidth to do this at present,” says Charvi Kain, 27, a management consultant from Mumbai.
The guilt factor is huge and it’s leading to the humbling of humblebrag.
Don’t share with my network
Many are choosing not to share their new job or promotion update with their connections on LinkedIn while updating it on the professional networking site.
It may be hard to digest this if you get notified about someone or the other getting promoted or starting a new professional journey on a regular basis. Like good design, this gesture, too, is invisible.
However, anecdotal evidence suggests a lot of users have gone against the grain with their social-media-sharing patterns.
“All over LinkedIn, you see posts starting with “Don’t ignore this, please. I have lost my job.” Is it really the time for me to be sharing my new job update?” asks Mugeera Patel, a 22-year-old law student who recently landed a job at an ed-tech startup.
While posting a new job update these days, “you get 10-15 messages immediately from people asking if there are more openings in your company. And hardly anyone ever replies to such messages,” says Sandeep Chavan.
The 37-year-old marketer from Mumbai also landed a lucrative job offer during the pandemic but did not broadcast it to his network. He informed only a few people in his professional circle.
“Instead of posting about your own job, one must post more job opportunities available in your own company. That will be appreciated by both those who are happy for you as well as the ones seeking a job,” he adds.
A lot of people from the entertainment industry are getting projects but not talking about them right now, says Lena, a popular actor from Kochi. Usually, publicising your shooting travel, via Instagram Stories et al, is part of the film’s promotion plan. It’s work.
“Now, with so much uncertainty around when and how these ongoing projects will see the light of day, we don’t post anything on them.” People are also mindful that it shows these (artists) are making money while so many others are not.
People don’t want to see that things haven’t changed for you or gotten better for you [when they’ve worsened for them], says Shreya Panjwani, a clinical psychologist from Delhi.
“It was alright to post celebratory news even a couple of months ago. Right now, it would be seen as being divorced from the pain people around them are feeling,” she adds, highlighting all the flak influencers have drawn on social media lately for putting up cheerful posts that paint a rosy picture far removed from the ground reality of the country at the moment.
Origins of empathy
In some cases, this behaviour also stems from their past experiences.
“I’ve been in that situation,” says Anmol Shrivastava, a final year student at IIT Madras who landed a job at a multinational tech company on the first day of a rather long and competitive placement phase.
“When you are struggling, sometimes you feel you are not good enough, and the post from your friend stating they joined a new job or got a promotion, which you think should make you feel happy for them, makes you feel sad for yourself.”
It often leads to people doubting not only their skills and credentials but also their character.
“If not sticking my achievements on their noses helps them continue their toil in peace, that’s far better than scoring a few likes,” says the 25-year-old.
Akshae Golekar, 28, says he felt uncomfortable sharing celebratory posts about his social media marketing company doing well during the pandemic when he saw posts on similar lines from others and “realised I wasn’t okay with reading such things.”
That said, “I also know people who’ve had a better year than us and are not bragging about it,” he adds.
Does this change how we share hereon?
During the initial phases of the pandemic, social media provided a sense of escape to people, notes Panjwani from Delhi. “But now it is providing a sense of community. People are seeking connection and comfort through the medium.” Many are creating two separate social accounts, one to share resources for help and the other to find a distraction from the reality of these times.
The current scenario has inadvertently given people an opportunity to validate themselves instead of looking for external validation, adds counselling psychologist Ishita Pateria.
“I tell many of my clients to not broadcast their accomplishments but to not dismiss them either. It is their achievement after all.”
Could this alter the way urban social media users share things online?
Anthropologist Nitika Sood thinks it’s highly unlikely.
“They are not sharing celebratory instances with broader social groups right now because they don’t want to get lynched and they want to be perceived as responsible people with the larger social circle online,” she says.
“The same people are sharing celebratory instances within their smaller social circle via WhatsApp.”
Some individuals do feel this has changed them for good.
“I think I’ll surely avoid boasting about it if my success is as a result of someone else’s failure — like making money in stocks, for instance,” says Hari Bhagirath, 35, a private investor and communications professional from Bengaluru.
“If I had this wisdom 10 years ago, I’d be a much better person now. But we all have that learning curve now,” he concludes.