Why It’s Ok to Be Selfish About Good Deeds on Social Media

‘Tis the season to do good upon others.

But I don’t have to tell you that – it’s all over your newsfeed. And on Notable.

It could be the Canadian couple who cancelled their wedding to sponsor a Syrian family and made headlines in the process, or one of the many now viral warm and fuzzy stories of people from all over the world doing good as of late. You know, the “feel good” stories you can’t help but share.

And yeah, I love those too.

Or, it could be from one of your “friends” on Facebook or Instagram and their borderline humble brag about the super good holiday deed they did and how amazing it made them feel (and look once they found the perfect filter to capture the moment).

I’ll say it (because I am brutally honest these days): I feel like some people take to social media to proudly tell the world about their super altruistic act then relish in the growing number of “likes” as validation that they’re a good person.

Or, at least, that they look like they’re a good person on social media.

Meaning, if social media didn’t offer the platform to either document the experience, or inform everyone you know about it, the good deed may not have been done. Bah, humbug, I know.

It just reminds me a little of a Facebook status of a witty friend of mine on election day that read “If I voted, and didn’t post a shot of the yellow ‘vote’ sign, did it really happen?” It’s sort of the same thing when it comes to acts of kindness.

In contrast are anonymous donors who throw millions at charity and city projects but don’t want any sort of recognition. Or the person who always discreetly buys an extra coffee or muffin for the homeless person outside of the Tim Horton’s without taking a selfie with the them after.

Here’s the good news: in that sense, social media has made us more altruistic regardless of our reasoning behind such behaviour. Sadly, it’s true that some (very simple) females I know would probably volunteer at a food bank for the Instagram shot of them dishing up food in a cute sweater and a Santa hat alone.

But at least they’re at the food bank.

If people want recognition for helping people, as long as they are helping people, does it really mater? In fact, in doing so, they may encourage others to do the same. The fact that social media is there to spread the word helps.

So, the good outweighs the bad, ugly, and self-serving.

In writing this, I questioned my own most recent Instagram post. It’s a shot of sweet and unexpected pair of Tiffany pearl earrings that I unwrapped last night. Earlier that day, I dropped off two toys in the toy box in my lobby for underprivileged children. And no, I didn’t post anything about it; I didn’t even think about it (and I only mention it to make my next point).

In retrospect, however, posting a shot of the now overflowing box and my contribution may have added more value (or even reminded people to grab a toy on their way home for their condo’s own toy drive) than my turquoise box and dainty earring shot did for anyone.

So, while I question the motive behind this sudden burst of kindness in my social media feed (and the accompanying paragraph describing the whole thing), I must say that it’s one of the positives to emerge from social media.

In a world where watching the news is enough to make us fear the future, spreading word of good deeds isn’t the worst thing.

At the end of the day, lives are made better for it – and not just yours and your social media ego.