A Woman Breaks Down the ‘What About Me?’ Effect and Guess What? Not Everything Is About You
You might not know it by name but you’ve definitely seen it in action. This woman brilliantly explains the ‘What About Me?’ effect found on social media.
By Jennifer Tisdale
Sep. 19 2023, Published 10:57 a.m. ET
Source: TikTok/@sarahthebookfairy (video still)
Like every person on Earth, there are certain foods I simply do not like. Mushrooms are one of them. Something about the slimy texture causes my mouth to stage a formal protest. Many times in my life when dining with someone who does like mushrooms, they have tried to convince me I’m wrong. Surely I don’t know my own tastebuds. Obviously I just needed to try the right mushrooms. Reader, all mushrooms are bad to me. I mean, mush is in the name.
I put that exchange in the same family as the “What About Me?” effect. Essentially another human being is centering themselves in your experience. In my example, a friend thinks they know more about my food preferences than I do. In the breakdown of the “What About Me?” effect that a woman by the name of Sarah does on TikTok, she goes into another thrilling way humans can make someone else’s circumstances about them. So, what is the “What About Me?” effect?
The ‘What About Me?’ Effect
The ‘What About Me?’ effect is when it’s not actually about you. According to Sarah, who goes by @sarahthebookfairy on TikTok, this effect “basically combines individualistic culture with being chronically online.” Individualism is the idea that we should prioritize our own needs first and that, at the end of the day, we really aren’t part of a collective culture. You’re self-reliant. You’re independent.
If you throw that mindset onto social media, you’ll get people wondering why every single post doesn’t consider them and their needs. It’s actually impossible to accomplish that, and yet some folks expect this. Sarah believes there are some who want to “write this off as a lack of common sense or critical thinking,” but she disagrees.
The ‘What About Me?’ Effect in Action
Sarah goes into more detail regarding this effect, and provides a classic viral example. “The ‘What About Me?’ effect is when someone sees something that doesn’t really pertain to them, or they can’t fully relate to, and they find a way to make it about them.” They’ll also attempt to “seek out certain accommodations for their very nuanced personalized situation.”
Sarah then brings up a TikTok made by Kara, aka @vibingranolamom, where she shares a bean soup recipe that is extremely high in iron. Kara, being anemic, eats this soup when she’s menstruating. In the caption, Kara even writes “All my anemic girlies, this one’s for you.” If you’re not anemic and don’t have a period, there is no need to watch this video.
Egocentrism on Social Media
“It’s called bean soup,” says Sarah while pointing out some truly ridiculous comments. People seriously showed up asking what they should do if they don’t like beans, as if Kara was cruelly excluding the anti-beans segment of the population. More than one person demanded a recipe from Kara that substitutes beans for something else. How does one remove the beans from bean soup???
The logical move is to keep on scrolling when you don’t like beans and see a recipe for a different soup. Again, Sarah doesn’t think this is a “lack of common sense.” She thinks this is rooted in the “individualistic culture we have created in the United States.” It’s possible this occurs everywhere, but she’s in the United States.
Moving Beyond the ‘What About Me?’ Behavior
“We make everything about ourselves,” claims Sarah. A lot of people in this country “seek out accommodations and validations for everything.” This isn’t about inclusivity, which matters. It’s about someone who truly turns another human’s interest or experience into a slight against them.
For instance, if I post about how much I enjoy vampire lore and someone comments “WHAT ABOUT WEREWOLVES,” that is the “What About Me?” effect. Honey, go post about lupine legends on your own social media. This is my fangtastic voyage.
If you engage in “What About Me?” behavior, I urge you to find social media accounts where the creators share interests you have. There is no need to demand everyone agree with you. That’s just goofy.
In conclusion, the “What About Me?” effect is a manifestation of individualistic culture and the constant presence of social media. It occurs when someone tries to make someone else’s experience about themselves, seeking accommodations and validations for their own situation. By recognizing and moving away from this behavior, we can create a more inclusive social media environment where people are free to share their interests without feeling the need to appease everyone.