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What Is It Like To Seek Emotional Validation In The Digital Era?

“There are people who need our stories. These individuals are just hidden from our view. We need to put ourselves out there because maybe our stories will validate theirs.” 

― Janine Myung Ja, Adoption Stories: Excerpts from Adoption Books for Adults

Does showing off emotions, heartbreaks, pain, the aroma of failures, disagreements, and opinions, on social media make any sense? You can simply validate my personal experiences and trauma by either recognizing the differences with empathy, or by hijacking my space, like we all are doing on digital spaces.

Validation is not a new concept, rather a skill that can enhance communication among all people. It is a powerful tool in which, researchers believe that life experience, especially the experience of getting along with others, affects how the developing brain works.

Validation is a skill that can enhance communication among people. Representational image. Photo credit: Pintrest.

Marsha Linehan applies validation in a specific way while explaining a therapy she developed in 1993, called dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).

Linehan believes that repeatedly invalidating the thoughts and feelings of others will cause more emotional development problems than you would think.

What Does Emotional Validation Mean?

So, it is important to recognise others’ feelings. It will broaden your horizons and make them relevant in the discourse of emotional validation.

The process of acquiring knowledge, understanding, and accepting another person’s emotional experience is called emotional validation.

Desperately, we want emotional connection or validation—we want to be understood, valued, accepted; with compassion and kindness.

Online interactions are still largely based on written communication. It has been proven to create emotional and interpersonal interactions between individuals due to real-time conversations.

In addition, controlling the interaction of social networks with their emotional content, will generate small, verbal signals in written, emotional expressions.

Virtual, written interactions can stimulate the emotions of online media users, allowing us to explore emotional validation on the Internet.

Well, accepting one’s position online in an emotional experience and suffering, must be distinguished from emotional invalidation. Undoubtedly, both are psychological concepts and critical communication tools for creating an inclusive community of humanity.

Why Are People Misunderstood On The Internet?

One fundamental aspect that has been ignored from human interaction is to understand and confirm the feelings of others, especially negative feelings.

The Internet and social media gained a lot of attention in recent years. Since we progressed as a society, we try to promote unrealistic positivity that subsumes negative feelings (can be genuine thoughts) by reinforcing individuals to be happy.

This phenomenon of always being positive is problematic in real life.

It is thoughtlessly promoting on the Internet, or social media, that leads to your emotions being invalidated by others in the larger context.

Emotional validation is a way of supporting and strengthening relationships, offering different opinions on the same thing. Giving special consideration is what people expect from each other on online platforms.

A person, sometimes. needs comfort instead of listening to positive and inspiring words that may seem indifferent.

One needs to watch out for toxic positivity on the Internet. Representational image. Photo credit: MegaPixl.

Emotional validation doesn’t mean agreeing upon one’s subjective reality, rather it means giving it a space to exist. It’s an emotional state to accept one; another to uplift psychologically, emotionally, and socially.

But we all are encouraging emotional invalidation by rejecting one’s individuality, judging them in isolation, rather than acknowledging their position in a larger social and cultural context.

You never realise the outcomes and consequences that would harm others by saying: “It will get worse; you will never achieve success; you can’t change anything; your efforts are futile; you are spoiling others and deserve to die, etc.”

These are some common examples you can experience on social media platforms.

Serious kinds of emotional abuse, suicides arising out of self-hatred, torture, and other crimes, are being perpetuated behind the screen of emotional invalidation. But our souls long for genuine connection, to be understood.

Experiencing emotional validation throughout my life exposed nuances and removed the curtains from the truth revolving around gender. Was it my gendered experience, or would you prefer to garnish my experiences with invalidation?

My recent encounter on social media was a tragic flaw of my story where, intentionally, I have been troubled by men to be responsible for creating fake feminism in the name of Islam, called fitna (trial or test).

Whenever I posted my true reflections or had shared anything regarding my mental health, it was appreciated by strangers and misunderstood by men known to me.

I was misunderstood and blamed for being inclusive as well as supportive of all beyond the boundaries of gender, caste, sect, religion etc.

This criticism either comes from non-Muslim men calling me a “terrorist” or Muslim men creating self-doubt in me on being a “Muslim woman”. Being flooded with emotionally invalidating comments for expressing views on any issue, hijacked my space with the denial of my position, rejection of my identity, and the self-crisis that leads me nowhere.

Sometimes, it is an intentional action of people that causes psychological injury through manipulation, control, and misuse of gender power.

Of Sisterhood And Solidarity

Creating self-doubt in my spiritual journey has been cured through the initiative of a reading club, Islam and Gender Read-Alongs, created by Dr. Sofia Rehman.

The online space of an inclusive community (sisterhood), that transcends binaries and gender hierarchies, is an important way of understanding each other.

It doesn’t matter whether our opinions differ or are polarised, but in contemplating finding communion, we understand each other with a consciousness running in our blood.

The presence of tolerance in those spaces is our emotional self-reflection that comes through validation. So, the cycle of getting emotional validation can become serious?

My personal experiences help me understand the difference between being validated by others and self-validation on social media.

It made me realise that allowing introspection through self-validation is more important for individual and collective growth. The collective emotion of the community and the reading club makes this possible by focusing on the “emotional self-validation” that comes from within you.

We need to understand how this small difference can change your life for the better.

“Words have the power to heal, and human beings can cure your grief. Social media can trigger your fatigue, but emotional validation is not a permanent therapy for the lost self.”

Why Won’t Emotional Validation On The Internet Work Forever?

I neither said emotional validation is unimportant, nor did I say that it will reduce its importance as a therapy. It must be understood by parents, partners, youths, etc. so that they can understand each other and have a sense of belonging.

You will lack emotional self-validation about identities, opinions, experiences, and choices, if you keep ignoring an individual’s presence. You must accept your thoughts about yourself in a positive light.

In difficult times, we are relieved when we express our opinions on social media. After receiving only emotionally validating notes, we find some hope in the dark.

The reflection of emotional validation on social media can create a sense of consciousness, belongingness in isolation and generate fuel, to run self-validation that could be your final destination.

People need to understand the complexity of social media validation because there is a fine line between temporary and permanent therapy that addresses emotional states.

The alarming rate of fatigue on social media through emotional validation as well as invalidation, hurts everyone directly or indirectly. Therefore, we have not been able to trace blur spots on the barren land.

“Belief in yourself is more important than endless worries of what others think of you. Value yourself and others will value you. Validation is best that comes from within.”

―Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Dreams in a Time of War

Kathline Smith (therapist and author of the book,”Everything Isn’t Terrible: Conquer Your Insecurities, Interrupt Your Anxiety, and Finally Calm Down”) used the term “borrowing self” to explain the complexity of people relying on others, or taking their assurance to be confident from others.

We have the right to attain self-respect with emotional well-being through online emotional expression, that would encourage us to navigate our own emotions with pride, respect, and belief.

Emotion needs a channel to communicate with you, and to motivate you and your behavior. That can be possible through self-validation, but it can be generated through emotional validation. Hence, self-validation is most important in today’s digital world.

Featured image is for representational purposes only. Photo credit: GSCSNJ, Flickr.
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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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