I knew something was wrong the moment I realized that the abs trending on Instagram — which I may have drooled over — belonged to a prepubescent boy. Not something wrong with me, but with the world we live in.

Somewhere between the creation of reality TV and Myspace, society latched on to the idea that anyone with an ego can be famous. This idea, with the help of YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram, embedded itself in the minds of our generation. Like a get-rich-quick scheme, we do practically nothing and overnight gain thousands and thousands of followers (and haters). For better or worse we throw ourselves at Internet fame.

Our culture thrives off instant gratification in the form of immediate, constant, growing attention, good or bad. And what better way to achieve it than social networking? Today’s American dream is about a different kind of success — one measured in the amount of likes, comments, followers, retweets and reposts. But we don’t want to actually work for it. Instead, we truly believe we deserve everyone’s praise and attention just for being who we are. We constantly want more attention and more followers at a faster rate. And if that means exploiting ourselves and our bodies, so be it.

Together as a nation we shape up, strip down and perfect the selfie. It’s an epidemic.

I thought social networking was about connecting with friends and family. Turns out it’s about connecting with an entourage of strangers readily available to tell you how amazing, gorgeous, sexy and funny you are.

But let’s not forget: Being attractive and scantily clad might get you places in the Internet world, but it doesn’t get you places in the real world. At least not good places. Pretty isn’t a skill. So if the only things you’re offering are your body and face, maybe it’s time to reevaluate.

It’s not always about getting naked or being beautiful. For example, some people do stupid things in videos. There are plenty of ways to gain attention via the Internet, and none of them have substance. But it’s not entirely the Internet star’s fault. We learn from examples in our society that objectifying ourselves almost always guarantees instant fame. This kind of behavior is encouraged. When did working for something become passé?

So I have to ask: Is it worth it? What do you get out of exploiting yourself? Tons of strangers constantly admiring or bashing your every post and a bigger ego? Having 70k followers on Instagram for posting pictures of yourself isn’t something you can put on your resume. It doesn’t count as an accomplishment. In fact, it doesn’t count for anything.

Unfortunately, we’re so accustomed to society’s way of thought: Narcissism is better than creativity, stupidity is worth more than knowledge and we should have a sense of entitlement for no apparent reason. We end up craving attention for trivial things that don’t really matter at all.

This isn’t to say we shouldn’t use social networking for our benefit. We definitely should. It’s obviously a fantastic way to reach the world in minutes.

If you’re a musician, an artist, a comedian or a photographer, by all means share your talent. If you’re passionate about certain issues, inform people. If you’re promoting or trying to achieve something important, go for it. If you’re a blogger, keep on writing. If you’re doing something productive that has substance, you’re doing something that matters. And this is how social networking should be used.

It shouldn’t be used to stroke your ego or make you a star for crying, “Leave Britney alone!”

Using social networking for instant gratification is a part of our culture that needs a lot of change.