Social media has inflated our egos enough to think, and not just feel, we’re obligated to share the trivialities and peculiarities of our private lives to mankind. Regardless of how idiosyncratic your online footprint maybe, its uniqueness disproves little of the truth we now all face – the increasing narcissism of human behavior lubricated by digital platforms.
The desire for approval is now recurring in a space that is far more chaotic (thus more difficult to assess) than your home, your classroom, or your office. Though social media has its own merits, the way it operates encourages – either as a consequence or as a motive – individuals to live a life up for public consumption, regardless if anyone desired for that private information, or if the user has earned it (the criteria for earning the right to live a public life is entirely relative). Consent is useless. Initiative – willingness – is the currency.
I, for one, have developed a love-hate affair with this new technological medium. Though majority of us would rather not admit it, there is a thrill in a like, or a retweet, or a reblog. It’s a tremendously gratifying experience for our lives to be measured by social media response. It makes us feel important. This however, is a more cynical perspective on that matter because it presupposes social media not as a tool for communicating; rather as a medium of self-aggrandizement and putting your best foot forward. Which is precisely what I fear anyway.
It is noticeable now that we are beginning to mirror media agencies and corporations setting our own agendas online. With our increasing immersion in cyberspace, there is also an increased tendency to share selectively – carefully choosing words, digital media, or links posted online to ensure we are put in the context we want i.e. smart, funny, curious, humble, cultured, sympathetic etc. In extreme cases, the best possible light is furthest from the truth, and we are reduced to treating ourselves as a brand. Of course, one can argue the resulting “development” of an online persona is a necessary consequence, if not only incidental, to the social media cause. Proving an individual is using social media to better his or her impression is almost impossible.
Still, I believe this self-marketing (whether conscious or not) is more dangerous than genuine narcissism. It is a manufacturing of a reality we like other people to perceive us in, hoping our agenda-setting through social media, can put us in the context we prefer. And since all of these are up for consumption, the danger spreads to real-life emotional consequences.
Why is this problematic? Simple. It’s a failure in fidelity to a standard or ideal. It is un-truth.
Of course, social media has its advantages. In politically volatile regions where traditional platforms of expression are suppressed, muffled, or ignored, the viral nature of social media is its power. Even in underdeveloped regions, access to the Internet is gradually being acquired, and now more than ever, individuals and communities once without a magnified voice can join in a discussion, express their opinions, and contribute to public sentiment – whether it be clamor for change, accountability, transparency, or justice. We’ve seen how this unique platform can spark revolutions. Social media is now a viable method of scrutinizing the excesses of those in power i.e government, show business, media, religion. As much as it can fragment, it can also unify large groups of people. Thanks to it, the Internet has become an even greater equalizer.
Yet one remains wary of the strength of social media. Recent exposes by whistleblowers like Edward Snowden put the spotlight on the concept of privacy in a medium which never forgets like the Internet, and challenges the notion the web is truly for everyone. How much of what we say is truly safeguarded in the cybersphere? How much of our words are tracked by those in power? Regulating such an all-encompassing virtual sphere can be impossible, and we’ve seen the hostility towards agendas aimed at muting the public in the web. But how much have already been regulated without our knowledge, while we were busy sharing pictures of our dinner with friends, adding hashtags to our uploaded media, and joining trivial conversations about a sporting event you’ve just watched.
While the problem with truth is present in the individual use of social media, the lack of transparency exists in communication platforms which can move, shape, and influence public thought. People have ulterior motives. Regardless of their insistence on neutrality, one cannot regulate individual, human thought. One way or another, how you use a medium of communication will absorb even the minutest of biases we carry. At the end of day, majority of us, social media user or not, create the reality we want to live in.
- The Real Truth About Social Media (rectechub.com)
- Why being transparent is important to companies in social media. (shahkhan604.wordpress.com)
- Social media has a dark side (thespreadissue.wordpress.com)