It’s hard to imagine the time when we would sit in front of our desktop computers, listening to the soul-draining dial-up tone, or waiting for our parents to get off the house phone so we could check our email chain mail. Today, we find ourselves in a globalized online community, constantly connected to our friends and the outer world through the use of portable devices that rest in our pockets. Social media has become an integral part of our everyday lives and culture. It is central to our modern lifestyles but also to the world of business and marketing. There is no doubt that social media has improved our lives but, at the same time, it has uncovered a grotesque side of humanity.
In the past, when people immigrated, their families who were left behind rarely heard from them again, apart from a rare letter every year or less. Today, families are spread across the world but have immediate access to each other, via social media. Through Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp etc, families are no longer completely separated by oceans and landmasses. While this form of communication is by no means the equivalent of a face-to-face connection, it does make leaving the people who are closest to us a tad bit easier to do.
However, social media can also have negative connotations and as more and more social media apps are being developed, an increasing number of concerns are arising. In his paper, Bernie Hogan discusses the presentation of self online, describing it as a performance that is “subject to continual observation and self-monitoring as the means for impression management” (2010, 384).
The arrival of Instagram and its numerous filters and editing options has created an online sphere of seemingly perfect lives and bodies. People post images that portray their apparently flawless style and hobbies; what Hogan would characterize as a performance. On the flip-side, the everyday mere mortals look upon these pictures and begin to criticize their own lives and imperfections. Their self-esteem begins to drop and therein lies the root of this problem. People have begun to compare themselves to these online personalities. But these social media profiles are nothing but smoke, mirrors and #filters.
One woman who has taken a stand against this falsehood is Essena O’Neill, a former Instagram model. Essena decided to quit social media and delete her photos in 2015, as it did not reflect real life. She edited the captions on her posts, to highlight just how staged each picture was and how trying to produce perfect images effected her mental health. Essena has also posted videos on YouTube to describe her true Instagram life and why she should not be idolized.
Perhaps, social media is neither good nor bad, both progressive and dangerous at the same time. We must all be wary about what we post and also how it makes us feel. One thing is for certain though, social media is now a part of human life and is here to stay.
Hogan, Bernie. ‘The Presentation of Self in the Age of Social Media: Distinguishing Performances and Exhibitions Online.” Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, 30:6 (2010). 377-386. Accessed on Blackboard.