Image via Cyn Eats

BY SERENE NEKOUI                                 


You’re at a typical brunch date with some friends, and your chosen restaurant is North Side – obviously for the picturesque aesthetic. Your server introduces himself, and you shyly ask him to snap a quick photo of you and your friends in front of the crisp, white restaurant wall. When your phone is returned to you, you rapidly swipe through your camera roll, finding a photo that best captures the most authentic fake laugh you’ve all induced, and edit it using only the most flattering filters that best suit the rest of your online profile.

Gaining popularity in 2002 and 2003 with the success of websites such as Friendster and MySpace, social media has influenced a generation of teenagers and has successfully influenced marketing tactics, social interactions, and cultural behaviours. With nearly instant news updates, photo sharing, and the ability to share what’s on your mind with the click of a button, social media has presented itself as a tool utilized to shape a communicative framework that alters our perception of the real and the ideal. According to Statistica, in 2017, 71% of Internet users actively visited social media sites. In other words, 71% of Internet users were actively involved in the process of promoting themselves as a brand to others.

That’s what we’ve all been doing, isn’t it? With the growing popularity of social media activity as a way to promote celebrity status, as well as the marketed and sponsored Instagram posts from beautiful models and celebrities, social media is a convenient instrument for its users to market themselves in a way they find most appealing. Honestly, the concept is genius. We’re all aware that a snapshot isn’t an accurate representation of what had been happening in that place and time. But if the creator of the image wants to show that they are living their best life, with the best people, eating the best food, those viewing it are going to believe it. A common question asked is whether or not social media users are accurately portraying themselves online. Realistically, we’d like people to see the best version of ourselves, compiled in a timeline of other beautifully captured photos of ourselves. According to an article published by the Huffington Post titled The Social Media Effect: Are You Really Who You Portray Online, this becomes a psychological battle, where people are presenting the idealized version of themselves to a pool of viewers rather than an honest arrangement of their true selves. Is our generation of social media users driven by competition, furthering us to promote our achievements, travels, and latest purchases to achieve a certain status?

According to a Buffer Social post by Courtney Seiter, about 30-40% of human speech is allotted to talking about ourselves. Online, that number exceeds to nearly 80% with the presence of social media and our ability to post about ourselves at any given moment. Presenting our ideal selves in person involves personal and emotional engagement, and our unconscious ability to read social cues and body language allows us to register our partner’s response to our dialogue. Our online presence, however, allows us to construct and refine the self we wish to portray.

It’s no secret that the effects of social media creates a false sense of short lived gratification through instant self- esteem boosts with likes, shares, and comments, explaining the allotted amount of time we spend on social media websites. Not only have we become addicted to the ability to present our ideal selves through our online profiles, social media has aided in the fascination of unknown lives. How many times have you found yourself endlessly scrolling through Instagram, coming across an instafeed with the most flawless theme and perfectly candid posts? Digital social media professor Karen North outlines our natural fascination with other people’s lives. Although we may not have a connection with someone based on a legitimate foundation, the ability to peer into their lives through their selected posts allows the viewer to glance into their lives as if a real connection is shared. Without taking any initiative to get to know the person you are viewing online, an impression is made based on their idealized version of themselves. Here, North outlines the warped perception of others by the hands of social media outlets.

While there are numerous critiques on social media, many concluding that we should pull the reigns on our online involvement due to its toxic environment, I can say in all honesty social media has provided me with a creative outlet I had never before experienced. As problems can be outlined with trying to create the perfect candid photo, and trying to capture the right selfie that perfectly accentuates your perfect contour and highlighting, these are aspects of creativity that can be shared and celebrating solely through social media. Along with creativity, social networking websites have allowed me to stay connected with long distance friends and family. Essentially, social media websites have created network communities around the world, furthering interconnectedness in a manner that celebrates unity in diversity.  

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