With each generation having different influences shaping their identity, what is it that shapes ours?
Being a generation that was raised on the internet, social media has become an almost irreplaceable part of our lives; in fact, the average teenager exceeds over 8 hours a day in media consumption. So how does this change actually affect us?
Apps like Facebook and Instagram allow their users to expose themselves to the public eye, allowing them to connect to people of similar minds and create real bonds. But it is too common to see snapshots or a bio of someone filled with an unrealistic persona completely detached from their real personality. This all begs the question: How do we tell who we or anybody else really is and can we even trust anybody online, even ourselves?
Seemingly for the first time in history, we are able to develop multiple personalities voluntarily. Through the use of social media, our visible lives become completely malleable, meaning that we can create a better image for ourselves or become somebody else entirely. It has seemingly become a form of escapism for some, abandoning the mundane for the extraordinary. And this idea may be inviting, and in many ways it can be beneficial (e.g. Making yourself seem professional and polite is more likely to get you accepted into a job than seeming abusive and abhorrent.) But where do we draw the line?
Not all people use the internet to fool other people about their lives, some just use the internet to slightly fool people about their lives (Look at almost any Instagram or Facebook user). With the ability to create or emphasize interesting parts of your life and personality, we can convince those around us and even ourselves that our life is nonstop entertainment, which can be detrimental to the mental health of ourselves and those around us.
An experiment was performed by Morten Tromholt to test how social media, specifically Facebook, affects our mental well being. The experiment involved 1,095 participants, half of which were told to stop using Facebook for a week, the rest were able to continue at their leisure. At the end of the experiment it was recorded that;
“The Facebook users rated their life satisfaction at 7.74 out of 10 average, but those who stayed away rated it at 8.11. The effect of quitting Facebook on well-being was also greater for users who feel “Facebook envy” than for users who do not.”
By tweaking our personalities or lives on social media to make ourselves feel satisfied, we can, in turn cause ourselves and people around us to feel less satisfied with our lives as they don’t seem as fulfilling as the lives of people we see on social media.
In the extreme end is the problem of someone lying about being somebody completely different than who they are, usually in terms of age, weight and even sex. This has caused acts of catfishing and sexual assault to become more prevalent through society.
Take the unsolicited dick pic. Yougov performed a survey, asking millennial males if they had sent a dick pic and millennial females if they had ever received a dick pic.
The results of the survey show the large amount of users adopting this craze because it boasts their self confidence and they believe that all females like it. Having a screen to hide behind gives males the feeling of safety. Imagine someone walking up to you in the street and revealing their snake because you were “hot”. It is highly likely that the people sending these pictures aren’t vulgar, horny men in real life, but is the adapted personality they developed online.
Social media gives people the medium to be somebody completely different and feel completely safe doing so.
Expressing yourself online is not a bad thing, that’s ultimately why it’s there, but when making a new account on any platform, make sure you consider how you intend to act, whether you’re using it to escape your ordinary life, you still have an offline life that you will need to return to. Or if you’re just using it to communicate with friends or strangers, be cautious as that attractive single model could easily be 20 years older and looking for a cash payment. And as social media continues to consume everyone’s lives, our offline and online personalities will continue to clash, so the closer your offline personality is with your online, the easier it will be to communicate with others.
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