Precious Adesina uploads her perspective on the social media psychology.
Living in an age where your online personality is almost as important to employers as how you represent yourself in real life, it comes as no surprise that people go to all extents to portray themselves in the most positive (or negative) light. Unlike never before, our digital presence has become indistinguishable from real life. We let it become an integral part of our personalities.
Preceding social media, we represented ourselves through physical assets: what we wore, how we wore it, what posters we had hanging on our walls, what books we read. Today, it is an amalgamation of our digital artefacts alongside our material possessions. One just has to look at Instagram pages such as Rich Kids of Instagram to understand that it is no longer just about having, it’s about documenting it also. Did you really go to that party if there’s no pictures of you there? Your new ring is awesome, don’t forget to strategically get it into your next selfie.
The question we have to ask here is what fuels us to want to represent every detail of our private life and possessions so publicly? For Rich Kids of Instagram, there is arguably a narcissistic drive to ensue jealousy in others, deeply rooted in an insecurity that without their wealth they would be an empty shell of a human being. Why else would you want your name under the bracket of Rich Kids of Instagram? For everyone else it appears to be a much different story.
Social media pages enable us to represent ourselves in the way we want to be perceived rather than how we are actually perceived in reality. It allows us to take control and fashion a better version of ourselves through emphasising particular attributes of our lives that we are happy- or sad- about.
Deliciously Ella, a popular food blogger, recently posted an open letter that strongly identifies how we feel about social media, both as a voyeur and an exhibitionist:
“I often look through my feed and think, ‘wow that person looks so great’ or ‘I wish I could do that’ and when I feel low that certainly doesn’t help me, and that’s exactly the moment that we need to remind ourselves that we’re not seeing the full picture […] That’s not to say it’s an inauthentic image and social media’s totally false, I don’t think it is, It’s just that we tend to post the most exciting parts of our lives – so it’s a heavily edited, curated reality.”
Anyone who hasn’t felt this on social media is either lying, not using it properly or doesn’t use it at all.
Looking at social media articles on anxiety.org, I found some interesting facts about… well social media anxiety. The two main factors that contribute to the way we experience social media are compare-and-despair and Fear of Missing Out, FOMO!
Compare-and-despair is the need to make a comparison between our real life and someone else’s virtual life. We ask ourselves why we don’t seem to be having as much fun, have as many friends or go on holiday as much as someone else. What we forget it that this is only a minute fraction of their lives. Kylie Jenner for example, the ‘queen’ of everything social media, reminded us this year about just that. “On Snapchat I show people what I think they want to see…That’s not me. It’s a projected image. A brand. I’m not a different person. I just don’t show all of me.”
Though we should take everything Kylie Jenner says with a pinch of salt, the key phrase to emphasise is “I show people what I think they want to see.” This is something that if you read Deliciously Ella’s entire letter (or any letter by a social media personality who “has something to confess”) you will find it is repeated incessantly throughout. But yet, somehow we find hundreds of girls buying Kylie Jenner and her family branded lip glosses, clothes and desperately sucking on a cup to achieve a look it took Jenner herself sixty-five takes and heavy editing to achieve.
The other is FOMO. Now everyone has not been invited to a party or decided to stay in, whether that be innocently or maliciously. The sad part comes when you are constantly reminded about how much fun everyone else is having via Facebook. You suddenly feel guilty about that third tub of Ice-Cream and ask yourself whether Gossip Girl was really all that worth it. I often find myself feeling that way, but I also often find myself at an event that looked really great on Facebook last week, but is an absolute fail this week. Your friends always have the same response: “Oh, it was so great last time. You missed it.” I’m sure it was. “How convenient that there is no way to verify other than through your crazy photos,” I think before tactfully posing for the camera, preparing to lure another victim into this unnerving state.
Now we can’t discuss social media without discussing social interactions. One thing everyone loves about social media is that it helps us to build and maintain relationships with people even while not seeing them. This is a very positive thing for people with social anxiety according to some psychologists as it enables them to create a relationship without the woes of being physically present. For others, it enables us to communicate with people without emotional involvement, thus requiring less cognitive effort. We no longer have to ponder over the facial expressions, tone of voice, eye contact and body language that comes with physical communication. Although this is great for quickly and effectively getting a message across, the most important aspects of interaction are those non-verbal signals. How many times have you read someone’s message and thought “what a b***h” just to realise it was a completely misconstrued? Countless.
Don’t get me wrong, social media is great. It enables us to bond with our friends even at the most difficult of times and reaffirm our friendships through group cover and profile photos. But one thing we have to remember is that it is not a substitute for real life and neither is it an accurate representation. It is a fragment of someone’s true self. Thus, we should never take it too seriously, but rather take it for the fun it is supposed to be. So next time someone tells you that they don’t use Facebook, rather than looking at them like they are severely unhinged, congratulate them for being unafraid to live their life unfiltered. #respect
Images: pixabay and pexels