At the end of a work-related conversation, I said to my friend, “What you did regarding [a certain task] was great. Good job.” 

It was not a rehearsed statement; I had just remembered it in passing. Perhaps it was my unconscious intention to end the chat on a nice note. I was about to move on, when she stopped me and said, “No one else had said a single good word about it. So, thank you.”

I was taken aback. Half-hearted though my appreciation was, it obviously meant much to her. I would have ignored what she had done, just like everyone else did (it was her job, nothing more), if we hadn’t had a reason to talk that day. I wasn’t planning on the appreciation; it had slipped out.

Everyone needs appreciation. I know I do. But do I give it away as much? I doubt it.

It would not be too far-fetched to say that people turn to social media in search of appreciation in the form of Likes and comments, for some form of approval and validation that we do not get in real life. And generally, they find it there too – because it is easier for most of us to hit a ‘Like’ or post a happy emoticon than to call them up and say, “Great job.”

Why do we find it so much easier to shower appreciation on little children? Their beaming face, their eager, proud eyes, and their efforts to impress us again? As children grow up, they consciously lose these tell-tale signs and learn to confine themselves to a stiff “Thank you”, as though appreciation means nothing to them. They – we – also decide that some people are worth appreciating; others are not. We become stingy with the congratulations.

An experienced writer I used to work with asked me once if I liked a recent article of his. I said in surprise, “Of course, sir.” It was a reader’s delight, as all his pieces were. Nothing short of expectation. Outstanding, as usual. “Then why didn’t you tell me?” he asked. I had no answer. I stammered something about he being a great writer and who was I to make comments on his writing, and so forth.

He took a deep breath and said kindly, “You must say it. If you like it, whoever the person is, however famous, you need to tell them. They need to hear it.”

Everyone needs appreciation. This statement is worth repeating. This is a note-to-self as well as a reminder to anyone who reads this.

Today we blame the social media for taking us away from real relationships and real connections. But what if, we were already withdrawing into ourselves that the arrival of social media was exactly the medicine that the patient needed? It was the door that opened at the right time for us to vanish into.

There is a recent advertisement on TV in which a couple sit together to watch a film on a popular movie app. Soon, each realizes that the other had watched the movie alone, earlier. I probably shouldn’t read between the lines (it is a cute advertisement), but it seems to be exactly what we are doing these days – confining our world to our palm. Television used to be a family activity. But it was only a matter of time before that too became part of our aloneness. We are all so used to hiding behind our screens that the only sights we can appreciate are the ones that exist within the bright rectangle of our handset. We can see and communicate to each other only through our gadgets. (Except old people and very small children, who still prefer real company of real people over anything else. Let’s not forget them.)

These days, there is a great deal of talk about mental well-being. An alarmingly large group of people are on the verge of – or already drowning in – depression. Feeling worthless is a major cause. “Whatever I do, however I do it, goes unnoticed. Why do I do it? For what purpose do I exist?” Which in turn leads to, “all my doors are shut; there’s no way out”. I am not fantasizing. It is the truth.

Social media steps in. Virtual adulation is the thin straw that we clutch at, to drag ourselves out of the darkness. 50 Likes. A handful of “wow” smileys. Some of it may make us feel better. No, it is not as shallow as it seems; it might be a life-saver. “Maybe I am not so worthless, after all. Maybe there is something worth living for.” But what happens when social media ignores us as well?

Let’s say a good word when we can. We have nothing to lose. We do not know whose life it is going to save.

You ask me if I practice what I preach? 

I’m trying, my friends, I am trying.