Be Real (Pt.1) – Why You Must Stop Lying on Social Media?
The expansion of the Internet and social media inevitably changed a lot of things for the better. We are given the opportunity to reach out easily and free-of-charge to anyone on the planet and share the information and knowledge real-time.
All the benefits aside, our new digital environment with an emphasis on social media also brought several threats that must be addressed.
In this series of articles under the topic “Be Real”, we are going to tackle dangers of losing our identity and authenticity while striving to keep up with newly established social norms and values.
The Influence of Social Media on Social Behavior
The mass media have always been the key conduit through which communication flows, making individuals learn and take in the values and behavior of a group. The entire learning process is done through watching, listening and reading what others do.
With the emergence of the Internet, social networks and smartphones, the social media took the central stage in contemporary mass media. Social media today is largely shaping our perceptions, understandings, construction of meanings, and general view of reality and the world.
Psychological theory suggests that our behaviors are strongly influenced by the extent to which we perceive our peers as engaging in the same behavior, or as endorsing that type of behavior.
However, it’s important to determine whether our behavior on social media is shaped by society i.e. us or by the said social media.
In other words, are we being manipulated by social media to accept imposed behavioral patterns that affect our entire lives? And, if we did, are these new patterns of behavior good or bad for us?
We should have answers to these questions by the end of this article.
Are You Aware of the Information You’re Revealing About Yourself?
At the root of this sociological transformation is the social network profile which has become the universal template for online identity and sharing.[click_to_tweet tweet=”Today, not only is it socially acceptable to share aspects of our identity on social media, but it has become expected to do so.” quote=”Today, not only is it socially acceptable to share aspects of our identity on social media, but it has become expected to do so.”]
For most people, being on a social networking site today means sharing more about ourselves than we have ever shared before. Before the era of social media, people didn’t share openly like this. It might have taken months or even years to discover someone’s political views, religious preferences, and the breadth and depth of information that today is easily accessible on social networking sites.
We are sharing willingly with people we barely know everything from our age, political views, job title, employment history, education, hobbies, interests, favorite books and movies, relationship status, and sexual orientation.
We are sharing where we traveled last month, where we are going tomorrow, what we had for dinner, how our bedroom looks like, what we cook, what we watch, what we listen to, what we read, what we buy, what we love, what we hate, how we feel, how much we eat and drink, who we are seeing at the moment, romantic moments we share with our significant other, when our child took their first steps, which restaurants we visit, do we exercise and where, etc.
In addition to profiles that we use to portray ourselves in a way we want others to see us, we freely use real-time updates and social activity to share even more about ourselves. We interact with other people, showing openly (and publicly or semi-publicly) our opinion, likes, dislikes or even emotions towards the hot topics in the world or on the Internet.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”Through our social activity, we’re revealing way more about ourselves than we’re aware of.” quote=”Through our social activity, we’re revealing way more about ourselves than we’re aware of.”]
All our online activity is held under the watchful eye of a socially-aware Artificial Intelligence i.e. social algorithm that is doing its homework and analyzing everything we do. It is making predictions about our interests, personalities, preferences and online behaviors without us knowing it. It might know better what we’re up to next than we do!
Ever saw an ad on social media about the subject you have just been thinking about? Did it creep you out? Well, it’s about to become much creepier than this.
Are We as Social as Social Media Makes Us to Be?
To understand the ridiculousness behind all this mad sharing, let’s imagine for a second that we’re not sitting comfortably behind our devices while conducting our regular online activity. Imagine doing the same thing in a public place as you do online.
How many online friends or followers do you have? Let’s say your social audience counts 1,000 people. So, imagine yourself now sitting in a restaurant with your 1,000 social connections (it must be hell of a huge restaurant, but let’s ignore that now).
Instead of sharing the photo of your food plate on social networks, let’s imagine you stand up and show your plate to the 1,000 people in a restaurant. You’re standing there, showing your plate proudly and hearing some of them yelling: “Amazing!”, “Beautiful!”, “That looks yummy!”, “Look at these colours!”, “Nice job! Keep it up!” At least one third of them (among which are people you don’t know personally) are giving you thumbs up, smiling, waving at you and sending you kisses.
Or other way around – let’s imagine you in the audience role. You’re passing by the street and you just saw a person showing off their newly bought shoes to everyone who passes by. You don’t know a person, neither do 1,000 other people who stopped by to show their appreciation. You approached a person telling them how much you like their shoes. You might as well kiss the person in the cheek, because you love their shoes that much. One guy across the street is yelling: “Wow! Amazing shoes!”
Can you imagine this scenario in real life? No? Why?
Because we’re not that social. This type of interaction is not a natural human behaviour. We’re just acting mad, “hiding” behind our devices.[click_to_tweet tweet=”We’re not as social as social media makes us to be. This type of interaction is not a natural human behavior. We’re just acting mad, “hiding” behind our devices.” quote=”We’re not as social as social media makes us to be. This type of interaction is not a natural human behavior. We’re just acting mad, “hiding” behind our devices.”]
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We’re Living Fake Lives. What the Hell Are We Doing?
Given the role of social networking sites in conveying our identity, our profiles and social activity have become the new tools for personal branding. For those we don’t know very well, our profile is a quick introduction to who we are. For those we don’t get to talk to very often, our profile is a quick summary of what’s new. This would be quite alright, if we didn’t take it to the next level by “decorating” our personal brand according to “standards” and losing who we truly are.
A personal brand is our reputation that can shape how people treat us, how much they trust us, and, ultimately, what job opportunities we have access to. It should be a personal choice how much we share with whom or whether to use social media sites at all for our personal branding. However, the emerging social norms created expectations from us to be widely present on social media.[click_to_tweet tweet=”Social media has introduced the unwritten but widely accepted set of standards on how each of our social profiles should look like. This has imposed standards on the life we should be living.” quote=”Social media has introduced the unwritten but widely accepted set of standards on how each of our social profiles should look like. This has imposed standards on the life we should be living.”]
In addition to this, there is another ridiculous standard that turned out highly impacting on our personal branding on social media: How visually appealing our social profiles are?
It’s no longer enough to live this glamorous, “likeable” and “shareable” life according to social media norms, we need also to present it in a visually appealing way. We need to “filter” all those moments and put together a consistent feed that reinforces our personal branding.
We’re buying expensive smartphones, cameras or even hiring professional photographers to take our photos for social media. Our social media feed became a criterion that distinguishes “influencers” with hundreds of likes and thousands of followers from all the “others” who don’t have time or tools to “decorate” their social profiles and interact with their followers.[click_to_tweet tweet=”Decorating the showcase of an imaginary life we live, we look ridiculous. Are we “filtering” our entire lives? Where are WE in all that glam and filters? How did we let this happen?” quote=”Decorating the showcase of an imaginary life we live, we look ridiculous. Are we “filtering” our entire lives? Where are WE in all that glam and filters? How did we let this happen?”]
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This is Not a Conclusion
The ability to manipulate digital images, combined with social networks that we use to present our ideal selves through the profiles we fashion, tricked us into thinking that we should be able to “curate” our entire lives.[click_to_tweet tweet=”While many of us try to find the perfect filter for their photos to arrange the beautiful feed, those filters go far beyond our photos and straight to our real lives.” quote=”While many of us try to find the perfect filter for their photos to arrange the beautiful feed, those filters go far beyond our photos and straight to our real lives.”]
We get frustrated trying to “decorate” our social profiles according to the imposed rules, while, at the same time, trying to live “our best life”. We need to be “goals”, or we’re not good enough. We need to have thousands of likes on a photo, or a photo is a “garbage”. We need to have hundreds of thousands of followers or we’re not relevant/interesting/beautiful/successful and who knows what else.
We can’t expect from social media to take responsibility for the new social norms and behavioral patterns that have been imposed on us, but we can protect our own identity and authenticity. We can and we MUST save ourselves from becoming a “bar-code” in social media world.
Take a second and be true to yourself. Look at your social profiles and try to find YOU in there. You are not only pretty moments with vintage filters. You come with all the vulnerability, flaws, mess, fails, heartbreaks, mistakes and misunderstandings. You come with all the tears, troubles, anger, anxiety, fears and sorrow. You come with all the “weird” interests, hobbies and occupations that don’t fit in social media standards. And that makes you truly magical and unique.
In a world of filters, likes and followers, know the importance of being true to yourself. Don’t forget who you are, what you truly want and what makes you happy. Unleash your magic under your terms.
To be continued…
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