Change Counseling Love and Romance Psychology Social Media

On Love v. Admiration

In the movie, My Life As a House, George Monroe is an architect who is let go from his job and discovers he has terminal cancer, of which he withholds his diagnosis from others. After deciding he wants to tear down an old house on a piece of property he has been dreaming about for a rebuild, he tells his ex-wife that he wants to take his son Sam for the summer and build the house with him.

In a powerful scene between father and son, Sam’s repulsed expression of disbelief flies out at his father, “You trying to get me to like you?” George’s response is equally telling, “I was trying to get you to love me.”

The things we do for love. Or, is it love that we’re truly pursuing?

With the rare exception of individuals with personality disorders that manifest in social aloofness, we crave love and connection. Children can create imaginary friends to fill in loneliness, boredom, or fearful emotions. And in the age of the Internet, many of us flock to Social Media to not only see what others are doing, but to curate a world where others might connect with us.

All of this sounds pretty innocuous, maybe even adaptive. Until it isn’t.

I’ve been intrigued by conversation around a fast-growing group of people who are being called out as repeat marathon cheaters. These are people, usually everyday non-elite runners, who engaged in ways to cheat the system in order to gain awards, access to other races, and followers because of their astonishing fast-paced finishes. The numbers of cheaters caught at marathons, half marathons, and triathlons are enough that there are forums and a website dedicated to investigating marathon cheaters and turning them in to the race directors and organizations to determine what, if any, consequences should be rendered. The cheating is so common place enough that Wired magazine recently published a story about the founder of Marathon Investigations and the most perplexing responses and consequences of cheating exposures. 

Ever wonder why they would do it?

I suspect the numbers of marathon cheaters is actually not growing as much as you’d think. Rather, the technology used to catch marathon cheaters has improved in such a way as to punish the cheater in a public way by way of disclosure and the removal of awards, a ban from races, and potentially retroactive removal of finish times if there is a proven history of cheating across multiple races.

In other words, marathon cheaters risk being shamed and despised for their behaviour, if they are caught. And if they aren’t caught, they receive the love and admiration of fans.

Actually, I think these people stumble on another truth. They don’t receive love from their fans. They receive admiration based on achievement. Another way of putting it is that they cull conditional love based on a transaction: I perform, and you compliment me. 

Is It Worth It?

As you might have guessed, this post isn’t about running and marathon cheaters as much as it is about answering a question: is it worth it? And what “it” did you receive?

What “it” are we talking about? 

The subject is Love. Most of us learn about the importance of love when we are children. We see it in the sacrifices our parents and caregivers made in order to provide for our needs, listen to us, take us ball games and movies, and make sure we have opportunities to learn and grow. Love is can be hidden within a voice wishing us goodnight, folded into a homemade cake for a birthday party, and embedded in a hug and a kiss. 

Admiration is a similar feeling as Love, yet with a subtle difference. Admiration involves respect and approval, usually because of something we did to earn that feeling from another. An example of being admired is when a stranger put his/her personal safety in jeopardy in order to save the life of another.  We admire that person for bravery; we don’t love that person (the person is a stranger), as much as we hold in high esteem that person’s choice of action at the risk of personal injury. 

So back to the question, is it worth it. It is my belief that one of the reasons why marathon cheaters continue a pattern of cheating is because they trade Love for Admiration.  Finding and experiencing unconditional, non-transactional Love is rare. What they want is to be loved, but what they seek through cheating is the next best thing: Respect and Admiration for being a high performer. 

If Respect and Admiration means that much to a person, I believe they can  – sometimes do — pursue Admiration at all costs; therefore, it is worth it to them. The ‘likes’ on their Social Media posts, the adoring comments filled with heart emojis and ‘way to go’s, gives the person a lot of validation. It becomes its own kind of pellet food bar, of which a hungry mouse will keep pushing despite the fear of being shocked as long as the memory of getting a pellet of food remains. Rewards light up our brains, even if the reward as an emotional one.

And it works on the negative side of the equation too. Some people will do act outrageously to get attention, even orchestrating daring examples of socially unjust or violent actions. Earning a nickname that inspires fear has become its own kind of admiration in the half light of glowing screens across the globe. 

Can’t Buy Me Love

If Love can’t be bought, can its next best feeling, Admiration, be had by lesser means? In the Age of the Internet and the viral nature of Social Media, the answer could very well be Yes

Let me propose an example. You are a woman, a mom, a wife, and you’ve worked all your life to help your family. You do good things in community, volunteer for charities, do your share of duties in your local PTSA, and help the kids with school. At the end of a long day, you take a glance at your Social Media feeds. What do you see?  The accounts with thousands and millions of followers for women are often in the world of beauty, celebrities in film and music, wellness, politics, and sports figures. Oh, and cat ownership.

While you have changed diapers,  helped the kids get launched to college, supported a spouse through think and thin, perhaps you have not been celebrated and noticed. One of the ways we feel Loved is when we have been seen. And one of the ways many of us have sought to be seen by more people is through Social Media. 

One of the ways we feel Loved is when we have been Seen.

The strange thing is this: even accomplished people, celebrities, and sports figures can fall prey to the this online search for recognition. In those cases, there may be money involved in the form of exclusive sponsorships, and a poor performance could translate into loss of income. There would be incredible pressure to cheat, lie, or embellish a story. I’m not excusing cheating, just providing a possible explanation of why someone who was already accomplished might feel pressured to cheat or lie in his or her industry.

What about the Age Group athlete (a non-elite, non-professional athlete), in running or triathlon? Why would they cheat if there was no other financial reward for an Age Group win?

I suspect that the search for Admiration and Respect are in play. It can feel so good to be called a, “Badass” because you are fast and strong. People are curious about seemingly unreachable feats that require commitment, sacrifice, dedication, and focus. We elevate athletic pursuit to be characteristics of the gods.

Still, you can be the head of a tribe of people – a leader! — if you promote a certain kind of lifestyle that others find challenging — such as being a Vegan* or being Sober**, but in the world of Social Media, being Vegan and being Sober aren’t necessarily enough to win the attention of others. If you’re aware that you hunger to be Admired, you’d better match that Vegan lifestyle with something else, something Hard, something Ideal, something Extraordinary.

Of course, I am pointing out the flaws in this formula for living. Why can’t each person be celebrated for these decisions, just as they are? Why don’t we see them?

On Reading

My point is, that rabbit hole has no end. If you search for a sense of worth by Doing instead of Being, you will be tired. You might get some followers, and you will be exhausted.

Valentine’s Day has come and gone. I personally don’t subscribe to the romantic overtures of expensive dinners and romance packages. You’re more likely to find me continuing to do the little things behind closed doors that lets my loved ones know how much I care. I still make the bed every morning, as much for myself as for my husband, so that the pillows are plumped and inviting, and a fresh pot of brown rice is ready for dinner at the end of the day. It’s mundane, yet it has it’s own Truth.

The love I feel is about having read people. It is not, “love at all costs” based on the accumulation of achievements. It is love based on our ability to see a person and choose to bestow warmth and affection for who they are.

Love is given because we can choose to love someone based on who they “be” in your life, not what they do. If you knew you were loved that way, you would never feel the need to cheat your way to being admired or respected. You would not worry so much what strangers thought about what clothes you wear when you’re on vacation, or what foods you do or don’t eat.

Yet, as I mentioned before, this kind of non-transactional Love is rare. It takes time to cultivated, because not everyone learns it early in life, and there are social forces around us that whisper other truths about what our essential worth is based on: appearance, agility, youth, genius, gender, economics, work performance, possessions.

The false form of love that people seek or fear on the Internet is costly. Yet, if you choose to See, it’s possible to learn how to cultivate Love versus Admiration based on accomplishment.

Note * and **: In case you were wondering, I have nothing personal against either lifestyle choices of Veganism nor Sobriety, and I have seen how some have healed aspects of their physical and mental health with both. I have simply chosen these two examples because of the abundance of writers on the subjects.

Psychiatry Sex Social Media Therapy Uncategorized

Identity Curation

Identity Curation
by B. Imei Hsu, BSN-RN, MAC-LMHC, Artist

Recently, I came across an article on Mashable about the ‘Facebook Facelift’: that is, facelifts prompted by concerned consumers after seeing their images as depicted on Social Media platforms. As quoted from the article, Dr. Adam Schaffner, a New York plastic surgeon stated, “When you look in the mirror you’re seeing the mirror image of yourself. But when you see yourself on social media, you’re seeing yourself the way the world sees you” [italics added]. Continuing to reflect on the intersection between technology, Social Media, and human behavior, I am not surprised at this increase. We are living in an age where curating identity has become a pasttime of teenagers, emerging adults, and business owners alike. According to the book, Identity Shift by Cerra and James, we have started using the Internet as a our mirror instead of a mature observer or authentic community to reflect to ourselves various aspects of who we are. The curation of identity on the Internet, with psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan’s philosophy on the mirror phase as a permanent structure rather than a phase in childhood development, creates a hyper-reality that is more real than the real. What happens when identity curation leaves consumers with a sense of disconnection from themselves? The following is a discussion about some of possible pitfalls of Social Media use in the effort to curate one’s identity to obsession.

Health care How to Seattle Social Media Washington

How Not To Overshare on Social Media

Have you ever wondered if you overshare? The problems of gossip as well as uninteresting gabbing has been around as long as there have been places to gather. Face to face, this is a delicate matter. But even with the loss of subtlety in online conversations, and particularly those which happen on Social Media, the problem still remain. While oversharing still happens F2F, it happens more rapidly on Social Media, a public forum that often archives your activities and comments with flawless recall. While that might bring some people the attention and notoriety they crave, there are also negative consequences of oversharing. Here’s how not to overshare on Social Media.

Don't be an oversharer. Here's how to not overshare.


If you want to know how to NOT overshare, you better know what it is and when you’ve done it. VA Simple Services had a succinct list of examples that is worth reposting:

Posting your complete date of birth
Announcing vacations or when you’re away from home
Sharing hate messages
Posting your every move including what you had for breakfast, lunch and dinner
Sharing pictures of inappropriate situations such as being intoxicated, showing too much “skin”, being with people or places you shouldn’t be, etc.
Posting your home phone number or address
Sharing your family battles including marital arguments
Posting about your financial situation
Sharing every little accomplishment your kids have achieved
Posting the same content over and over 50 times per day
Posting personal information or pictures about your friends and family
Letting us know every time you’re on YoVille or other online games

Notice how some of the overshare examples above are about vulnerability and exposure. For example, if you choose to post your full birthdate on Facebook, your birthdate can be potentially exposed to friends, friends of friends, and in some cases, an extended “friend” network. Your birthdate is an identifying piece of information needed to apply for any number of sensitive accounts and documents, such as a Social Security number. You wouldn’t give out your SSN to just anybody, would you? Why would give your birthdate?

Other overshare examples exist in the category of both personal privacy and matters of taste. One could argue that there is an entire market of voyeurs, curiosity seekers, and gossips who would truly enjoy getting into your business if you were to anonymously expose the details of your sordid sexual affairs or the mental state of your ex-spouse, as did a man who divorced his wife several years ago. He started The Psycho Ex-Wife as a way to share about his divorce and child custody battle, but it turned into a forum for thousands of others who identified with his situation. Problem: while writing under anonymity, he shared too many pieces of identifying information, and his children eventually found out what he was writing about his ex-wife. The couple is embroiled in a lawsuit, and currently a judge has ordered the man to shut down his blog on the grounds that his blog contains material that would be harmful for the children to interact with about the mother. Before it was removed, the contents of the blog included both his and his new partner’s speculations as to his ex-wife’s mental state (including undiagnosed psychiatric disorders), her personal activities, her parenting, and his recounting of her failings.

What’s the verdict? Is this an example of an overshare? Consider this: if the writer needed catharsis and a forum of people to talk to, why wasn’t it sufficient to join a divorce support group and put all conversation under legal confidentiality? Even if the writer had started his blog with the intention of helping other people through their divorce process by creating a cathartic support forum, it eventually morphed into something much more complex and convoluted. Currently, the writer is raising money for a legal battle to bring his blog back online under the First Amendment. While he raise that money, I challenge you to consider the effect of this kind of “license to write” that includes character defamation under the cowardice of barely-obscured anonymity.

Another recent example is that of Trey Pennington, a popular blogger and father of six going through a divorce. After sharing elements of his divorce and custody battle, Pennington took his own life. There is some speculation that he may have succumbed to both the divorce tactics in his case and to his oversharing efforts on popular Social Media. Many in the Social Media sphere are grieving the loss of this man. We will always wonder if there would have been some way to have prevented this sad loss.


It seems so simple. You can tell yourself, “Don’t gossip,” and “Don’t self-disclose too much.” Let’s put some feet to this plan. A couple of ideas will help you not to overshare:

1. If you are in a carthartic mood, write what you think and feel, and then save it in draft form offline. Go back to your draft later, and ask yourself, “Is this important to anyone else?” If what you wrote is self-serving, passive agressive, or damaging in nature, hit the delete key, and save yourself anguish later.

2. Rethink your practices of sharing all of your activities on Foursquare, Facebook Places, and other geo-locating platforms. Yes, some people are interested in following your every step. They are voyeurs, just like you and me. And a small amount of them may be stalkers. Some platforms allow you to limit who can have access to your check ins. But in general, people don’t want to hear about every detail of the food your having for every meal and snack unless you are a paid food blogger/foodie.

3. Think through how much time and effort you want to spend on Social Media per week. As platforms become more entertaining, there is an addictive quality to it that encourages people to overshare. Create your own plan of use, and stick to it.

4. Don’t share other people’s personal information, without their permission, such as illnesses and disease states, delicate situations, and matters of hygiene, physical appearance, and references to their sexuality or practices. There may be circumstances of which your oversharing could get you into a lawsuit for libel. While your First Amendment rights guarantee freedom of the press, with freedom comes responsibility.

5. Use caution when sharing self-referential commentary online. Being personable is one thing. It can be warm, endearing, and connecting. But it can also backfire, and you will only have yourself to blame. Without clearly mapping the reasons and consequences for doing so, you may find yourself regretting your online sharing as your information gets in the hands of health insurers, lawyers, and the loved ones forced to deal with your online presence. It can be very powerful to create a blog about your breast cancer treatment, recovery, and fundraising for a cure for cancer. Similarly, it can be very damaging to post personal information on websites hosting small-town gossip. The New York Times recently posted an article about the effect of small-town gossip hosted on the Web, resulting in divorces, character assassinations, and the contemplating of suicide.

Here at Seattle Direct Counseling, I have a Social Media policy to clarify my position on the use of Social Media in regards to my work. Both therapist and client have certain responsibilities to uphold in the context of a therapeutic relationship, and many of them are legal responsibilities in regards to confidentiality. Be sure to check out my Social Media policy. Whether you or someone you know contracts with me for services, you should understand your rights in regards to Social Media use in the healthcare world.

Now it’s your turn. What do you think about oversharing on Social Media? Have you ever overshared, and then regretted it? What is your process to prevent oversharing? Please share your comments here.

And if you are a helping professional, I am especially eager to hear from you. What guides your choices on what you share, both on professional and personal blogs?

Question: would you like to hear this article as a podcast on iTunes? I’m currently considering turning all my blogposts into audio podcasts so you can enjoy them on the fly! They may be released under a different name so that can be found a bit easier. I’ll be posting more information as this develops.