Image of woman looking at herself in the mirror. By Andrea Piacquadio for Pexels

TikTok and the danger of hubris

TikTok has become my preferred social media platform. I appreciate the interactiveness of video, the ease of adding content, the engagement I’m getting, and the BookTok community I’m happy to be a part of. Like all social media, TikTok has its share of problems and drama. It also shows one of the biggest dangers of the social media age, hubris.

Here’s a rundown of recent events: The biggest drama hitting BookTok is a first-time novelist who attacked an ARC reader who gave her four stars instead of five. The firestorm of criticism caused the novelist’s hybrid publisher to dump her after she spent $9,500 on the book and put it into preorder. And there’s the transgender woman who aspired to be the next Candace Owens. She discovered that sucking up to bullies doesn’t protect you from being bullied, and it alienates you from communities that would offer support. We also have those raging at Target and Chick-Fil-A because they want to support diversity and inclusion.

The root cause of all this drama is hubris. When you feel you’re too good to take criticism, thirst for attention, and claim a moral superiority over people who just want to live their lives and pose no threat to you. (If your faith crumbles at the word “diversity” and a t-shirt with a rainbow on it, perhaps your faith isn’t very strong.)

Let’s face it: We use social media to market ourselves. If we’re not pitching products and services, we’re selling the best version of our lives. We show off our vacations, our children’s successes, and how much fun we’re having with friends and family. We remember everyone’s birthdays, give the smartest takes on our choice of subjects, and show the world how wonderful we are. When we complain, we show the righteousness of our anger and how our attacks are justified. We declare the world would be better off if everyone believes the same way we do.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. Social media is a public space, and we want to present our best selves when we’re in public. We wear our best clothes, use our best manners, and act as cordial as possible. But you’ll find the person who takes it too far. The one who dresses extravagantly to show off, who forgets their manners to seek attention, and becomes aggressively friendly to get people to like them (and then gets aggressively angry when they don’t). This is what happens to those who get addicted to likes and follows, who strive to make their public persona their entire personality, and go to disastrous lengths to get attention because being ignored scares them too much.

That’s what happened to the novelist, the aspiring right-wing influencer, and the moral crusaders. They fell into the trap of hubris.

The antidote to hubris is awareness. To know how much is too much. To know when to speak up or sit it out. To consider how others would respond to your actions. When you mess up—because we all do—you must take responsibility and make things right with the people you hurt. We can put our best foot forward without stepping in it.

Above all, let’s remember that our best selves are kind, honest, and encouraging. That’s the best way we can portray ourselves on social media.