When we flick through our social media channels, we’re met with the highlights of our lives.
With the most recent statistics indicating that the average teenager is spending 9 hours a day on social media, social channels are witnessing a great deal of activity on a daily basis. We post our wittiest thoughts on Twitter, keep the world up-to-date via Facebook, and upload anything vaguely photogenic onto Instagram; hands up if you’ve even tried holding food behind the camera to get a decent snap of your pet.
Can the idealised nature of what we choose to share be having a negative effect?
Social media gives us an unprecedented level of control over the way we appear to others, so naturally, we use this to portray a glowing version of ourselves. With countless editing apps able to erase those under eye circles, filters galore, and the ability to excessively proof-read, edit, and also delete, our social media profiles can often reflect an unrealistic version of ourselves.
If you’ll bear with me while I get psychological, Carl Roger’s theory of personality outlines the idea that a person’s concept of self is the most important part of their personality and suggests that the bigger the discrepancy between our actual self and our idealised self, the more unhappy the individual.
One example of this is the case of Instagram-famed Essena O’Neil, who sensationally quit the platform in 2015, abandoning her 500,000+ following, after her idealised self and actual self became increasingly dissimilar.
The whole topic is actually reminiscent of the film Surrogates (2009). Starring Bruce Willis, the film is set in a dystopian world where the population strap themselves into futuristic chairs and inhabit the planet through their idealised robotic avatars; the worst scenario, for sure.
The mental state of social media users could certainly be at risk if an inflated sense of self develops – causing individuals to use social media as a form of validation, measured by number of likes. It’s also easy to fall down the rabbit hole of living vicariously through social media, which is tempting, considering the control we have over our online presentation as opposed to real life. I’m sure we’ve all been at a social event where about 80% of attendees are engrossed in their phones, probably posting about the occasion instead of enjoying it.
On the flip side, there’s also a negative mentality on the side of the follower, who may become insecure about the level of perfectionism they perceive online, in comparison to the imperfections in their own lives.
As social media infiltrates more and more areas of our lives, can we not justify the idealism we create online? When using professional channels like LinkedIn, you’d be a fool to not present the best version of yourself. Participating in Facebook can also have an affect your social life in reality as the appeal of your page may even encourage ‘Facebook friends’ to pursue you as ‘real friends’.
It’s human to present the best version of ourselves, especially in situations where we are meeting new people, attending a job interview, etc. We also alter our behaviour depending on the company, acting slightly differently with family than we would with our friends. Is the way we act on social media not just another facet of situational behaviour?
Despite the immediately obvious negativity associated with the idealised representation on social media, is it really fair to criticise what is merely a magnification of normal human behaviour? Perhaps not.
Do you think social media can be criticised for this? Let us know on Twitter at @ContentCal_io