Social media has provided us with many wonderful things. Among the most delicious, in my opinion, is its update of the “flounce.” The traditional definition of the word includes “to move with exaggerated jerky or bouncy motions,” “to move so as to draw attention to oneself,” and most relevantly, “to go with sudden determination.” It evokes visions of a petticoated, crinolined, and tulled society diva angrily and huffily… well… flouncing out of a room in response to some real or imagined offense.

In the virtual world of social media, where we don’t have the ability to use actual physical gestures, people have developed a substitute for this high-drama departure, and have done so thoroughly enough to have co-opted the word. As Urban Dictionary now defines it:

To leave an internet group or thread with exaggerated drama; deleting posts, notifying mods and or group users, and cross-posting on other groups to draw attention to the drama.

If you’re a regular participant in social media groups, you’ve probably seen this behavior many times. It’s become so common that it’s been turned on its head, and woe betides most flouncers nowadays. Rather than gaining sympathy or acknowledgment of that which the flouncer complains, responses tend to be mocking, dismissive, and/or derisive.

As they should be.

A flounce, particularly one where the flouncer sticks around to see what sorts of responses he or she gets, is nothing more than an exercise in narcissism. It’s all about “me, Me!, MEEEEE!” and the momentary rush of having people acknowledge and empathize with a feigned or exaggerated moral outrage. It’s a self-indulgent assertion of one’s greater importance to a social media group than all its other members, because the group either hasn’t conformed to the flouncer’s expectations or because it has evolved in a direction the flouncer doesn’t like.

It’s also evidence of how social media has amplified (and corrupted) people’s tendencies towards self-centeredness and self-importance. The “like” button can be a great feedback tool in a medium where the immediacy of face-to-face interactions doesn’t exist, but it exaggerates the importance of external validation.

Everyone likes positive feedback. It’s natural, and there’s nothing wrong with it. But, if external positive feedback is the only source of personal confidence, we lose something vital: the ability to achieve satisfaction without it. And, with that, the inability to live in a moment, to enjoy an experience in and of itself. Before social media, how often did we take pictures of our dinners, or of the concerts we attended? Moreso, when we did, did we do so to show others, or simply to remind ourselves of something at a later date?

Sharing on social media is fun and has many positive aspects to it, but it’s also addictive. Like all other addictive things, it can be overdone and abused, and like all other addictive things, it can become something that makes us feel not-whole if we don’t keep doing it. As Axl Rose sang in Mr. Brownstone, “I used ta do a little but a little wouldn’t do, so the little got more and more.” And, like all other addictive things, it can alter the way we derive pleasure, undermining the pure and replacing it with the ersatz. What’s more joyful, watching a concert to absorb and be in the moment with the performers, or holding your phone up to record it for sharing on social media? I’m as guilty of the latter as many others, but in realizing that, truly, only a scant few will watch more than a few seconds of a carefully-framed recording, and the pleasure of the share comes at the loss of the moment, I resist the temptation a lot more and a lot better than I used to.

So it goes with the flounce. If you don’t like a social media group you’re in, leave. If you don’t like the tone or nature of a discussion or conversation, stop responding. It’s all ephemeral, and no one will care, in that moment or in a day or two, about it. Yes, if it’s a tight and/or long-running group where everyone knows everyone else, your disappearance might be noted and lamented, but those are the exceptions, and if you’ve reached the point of departing rather than trying to fix what’s not working, it may very well be that your time there has reached a natural close.

In short, if you’ve an urge to flounce, don’t. If something makes you want to leave, either leave quietly or voice your opinions without a threat to depart. Either walk away from the problem or try to fix it. Storming out in a huff doesn’t impress anyone, as every parent knows. All it does is speak of narcissism and invite mockery.

And, if you’re enjoying a moment and want to memorialize it, try taking that picture and not sharing it. If you feel uncomfortable or incomplete doing so, consider what that means.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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