Featured in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Eye to I is a collection of portraits from the 1900’s to today. One of the portaints featured in the collection caught my attention. Molly Soda’s piece stood out to me because of the obvious relevance to today’s social media use, and more specifically online identity. Social media started as a means to connect with others and share aspects of your life whichever way you want. However, that total control given to users on what gets posted, what filters get applied, and what hashtags are tagged, are giving people the exact tools they need to craft a picture perfect life, and form an online identity.
Seen in the photo is Molly, holding an iPhone, posed and ready to take a selfie. The background is dark, void of everything, on purpose. Molly chose to take the photo that way to demonstrate exactly how easy it is to hide something in a picture. We don’t know what she is covering up but it is something she doesn’t want her online following to know about. Instead of taking a picture and posting it without much thought, Molly is able to alter the picture to hide or showcase whatever she wants using only her phone.
Web based life has afforded us a one of a kind chance to fabricate a truly noticeable, perpetual record of ourselves, yet through a computerized medium. It is, in a way re-developing the thought of personality, with sweeping outcomes. Not only is it giving the tools to reproduce our personalities, but it is also addressing a natural human fear. That we will be overlooked by others and that our own memories will start to fade, changing the individual that we are.
Some people take to social media to try and create a new self. Using apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram people attempt to create a facade of themselves. A new personality is formed to make them look like something different. They do things they wouldn’t do in the real world and say things they wouldn’t actually say. One may lose trust for others on the internet, but for a person who feels invisible, social media becomes a place to anonymously express themself. This anonymity is used to either voice one’s opinions, thoughts, and feelings to the world without feeling directly criticized, or it is used maliciously towards others. This is the challenge with allowing total anonymity on the internet. It can be used as an outlet for discussion, or for hate.
The vicious cycle of capture, edit, post has detrimental effects on young people. Teenagers are highly affected by the principles embraced by social media. It offers several interpretations of what is beautiful, cute, sexy, and appropriate. A person’s adolescent years are a crucial time for identity formation, and during that time they rely on others to figure out who they are. With the introduction of social media this has become virtualized and as a result the individual may be inclined to compose an altered presentation of themself in order to be admired more by their peers. This newly built self is constructed on the false narrative offered by social media: ideas of what is engaging, tempting, satisfying and alluring. The aspects of one’s true identity which do not fit these concepts may be rejected and put aside which dulls out unique qualities that most see as true beauty.
As we make these detailed profiles around ourselves, making our lives to appear to be flawless, we lose our true selves. We begin to affirm the lies we create and in turn, lose our perception of reality. If you maintain the same lies, eventually you will believe that they are in fact true. And when lies make up our true identity, do we actually have a self and is there really anything more than what’s written on our social media bio?
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