As social media sites become continuously integrated into our personal lives, distinctions between our real and online personalities shed a light on the pressure some may feel when determining which specific perception of themselves is acceptable enough to reveal to their assumed audience. Since its introduction in 2004, the growing phenomenon known as Facebook, has served its purpose of providing users with opportunities to share information and connect with each other socially in the absence of face-to-face interaction. When you post a new photo on Facebook, I am willing to bet that it feels good seeing the notification bubble pop up indicating that someone has liked or commented on your post. Do you feel disheartened when you do not receive an adequate amount of likes? Contrary to receiving a plethora of feedback, specifically more positive, do you find that you are apathetic to the responses you may or may not receive when you post? Arguably, how you choose to respond to this feedback will reveal a lot about your identity and self esteem. Identifying and mastering those reactions is key to understanding how Facebook can affect and magnify different aspects of a person’s psychological well-being.
The impact of social media, particularly Facebook and the frequent use of it, can play both a positive and negative role in a person’s life in terms of their self esteem. The specific actions users take and what they choose to reveal about themselves through what they post are ultimately reflections of how they view themselves or how they want others to perceive them. The continuous need for one to monitor and maintain their online persona may suggest the concern they have towards appeasing their assumed audiences because if “one’s Facebook image substantially deviates from their true image, it may serve as a gateway behavior to more problematic behaviors which may lead to psychological problems” (Gil-Or 1). This alone can be a tedious task and can essentially induce a great amount of stress because subconsciously, they feel that they must present themselves in a favorable manner or otherwise be left out or feel unwanted. Although Facebook provides one with the opportunity to stay connected with both family and friends, the pressure to stay in the loop of things can force a person into a corner of anxiety when they do not deliver as they think they should or how others expect them to. Throughout my research, I have also come to understand that a person can be pushed to higher levels of stress and anxiety when their “inclination to impress others is conflicted with false representations of themselves” (Winnicott 3). In other words, one’s struggle to maintain a certain image is looked down on when those who truly know them do not accept the facade that they have created not only for themselves, but for others to see as well.
When looking at online identity throughout social media and how users can vary based on their platform of choice, it can be extremely apparent on applications involving online dating, such as Tinder. This Location-Based-Real-Time-Dating application was launched back in September 2012 by CEO Sean Rad and has since accumulated a whopping 3.6 million visits per day (“Tinder Revenue and Usage Statistics”). The entire point of this platform is to create a profile that is ultimately meant to personify enough about you in up to 6 pictures and a short biography, which then can lead you to decide whether or not a person appeals to you by swiping left (dislike) or right (like) on them. Since this is such a small amount of information to try and get even a fraction of what you want people to know (or not know) about you out there, many people resort to making themselves seem a different way in order to attain a better chance with a potential future “match.” This can almost put more pressure on a person to make sure that the most “perfect” pictures and their “best” qualities are put out in the open since most people want to appeal to a large audience of people, and this can ultimately lead to that person tweaking or morphing their online identity into something that they might not entirely be.
Even users of the app can sometimes admit to them changing their online persona to be somewhat different than who they are in real life. For instance, some Tinder users posted to an anonymous site declaring their confessions when using the app, some of which include: “I wish that I was as popular in real life as I am on Tinder,” and “I only like pages on Facebook so that I’ll have more things in common with girls on Tinder,” (Yandoli 3). These are just small examples of how easy it is to transform one’s online identity and quite literally only show what is wanting to be shown. This whole idea of appealing to others, especially since this social media platform is more catered towards selling yourself to your audience, can really make a person see just how mysterious or different a person can be in real life versus who they can be online altogether.
While it really does depend on the actual motive of using the app as to how people presents themselves, it can be easier to see sometimes than others based on their self-presentation. For instance, if a person is using the app in order to try and attain an actual relationship, they usually will tend to post more photos involving their family/friends, hobbies that they enjoy, or even include more about themselves in their bio in order to try and be as “real” as possible. On the flip side, if a user is simply wanting to pursue a one-time-only ordeal, then they will usually not be as open or post more photos/information reflecting that. Sometimes a person might come across a user that might seem too good to be true but believe them due to their imported pictures and information from Facebook, but an important statement to remember from Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic states that:
Given that most people spend a great deal of time curating their Facebook profiles – uploading selfies from Instagram and reporting well calculated and sophisticated food, music, and film interest – one is left wondering how on earth Tinder users are single in the first place … but only until you meet them.
As it is clear to see, dating applications and platforms such as Tinder are places that can be easy for users to transform into the person that they want to present, and this ultimately reflects just how much a person’s online identity can, in fact, change.
Being able to understand who we are as people and what makes us complex as humans has been observed for many years over social sites. Twitter, with being the example in mind, would be the most physiological and social aspect to understanding personal identity. Because Twitter is a large social platform, there are thousands of accounts made with people sharing information and communicating with one another. These social media sites including Twitter are a way to escape reality and enter a virtual world. These platforms of social networks creates an identity which allows people to become who they want to become. For Twitter, having followers is the biggest thing. You are able to share with your followers what you do in your life, who you follow and find fulfillment of being in control of your page.
Mark Ramelb says, in his essay, Twitter and Identity:Living up to the Social Comparison. “I want to look at various accounts on Twitter and examine how their tweets allow them
to construct an identity based on the audience they are targeting.” By having Twitter, one can attract an audience by what they tweet and basically form their own social identity online. These tweets represent who these people are and what they want the world to know. Mark says they are creating a “brand” for themselves. They become established on who they are because of their social media pages and begin to build their brand as an individual online. “Twitter users create an identity through their tweets that reflects a brand they constructed of themselves. This brand may be personal, reflecting an emotional or mental state that an average individual wants their friends and family to see, or it may target a consumer audience for a well known party.” Social identity and Twitter go deeper into just the basics of using the app. There is a real meaning to users tweets that include expression and the specific target audience they are attracting. In conclusion, Twitter is a social site that allows its users to become who they want to be. Having the freedom to construct who you are on your social media sites is a large form of social identity.
Snapchat is an application only available on mobile devices. What makes
Snapchat different from other social networking sites is, photo or video post on Snapchat
will become inaccessible after certain time. The nature of the self-deleting mechanism of
Snapchat encourages frivolity and higher frequency of interaction between users. More
importantly, the mechanism of Snapchat creates an environment that “young people often
employ a higher level of self-disclosure and have reduced self-presentational concerns
compared to other social media platforms” (Kofoed & Larsen, 2016). Unlike other social
networking sites like Facebook, which could be seen by strangers or elder relatives,
Snapchat has a younger user group, users will tend to disclose the “true” side of their
lives, and let others know their “true” self-image.
Most of the people will try to curate their best self-image not matter in real life or
on the Internet. However, how self-esteem and self-image could be greatly affected by
other users who comment on both their post and profile. It is understandable that people
enjoy using Snapchat because it could both allowed them to express their “true” self-
image, which means there could be a tight relationship between Snapchat and social
networking in real life. Despite people who have fun with Snapchat, there is a small
percentage of users could receive negative feedback on Snapchat, it is obvious that
negative comment could impact people’s self-esteem in a negative manner, which relates
to their self-image in real life. Most likely, low self-esteem people tend to pay more
attention to their self-image, especially the photo and video they post on Snapchat, they
will try their best to project their life in the best way and the highlights of our lives. When
we are no longer follow our “true” identity, there is no longer differences between
Snapchat and Facebook.
Youtube is a video sharing service founded by Steven Chen, Chad Hurley, and Jawed Karim in 2005 (Rowell 13). Content included on the site are TV Clips, Documentaries, Movie Clips, Live Streams, and Personal Video Blogging and more. The site is available to unregistered user and users are allowed to upload as much content as they would like. Social Media is known for have negative effect on youth. Youtube however has proven to have positive impact on young people. According to Business Insider, Youtube is making teens feel better about themselves in comparison to other social media applications. Defy Media did a study and found, “62% of Americans ages 13-24 like digital media because it makes them feel good” (Business Insider). Youth feel as if the content on youtube is more relatable and makes them feel more positively about oneself. The article continues explaining that millennials (aged 13-17) admire Youtube Stars because they feel as if the fame is more attainable than Hollywood Stars.
Lauren Fairweather a popular youtuber did a study on youtube and its impact on identity. Her participants were aged 18 to 32 and had a wide range of postings on their youtube. The average subscribing count of the participants was 1,836. The participants were mostly female. She found that over half of her participants felt more confident since they started video blogging and it helped them actually solidify their identity. She also found that youtubers found it easier to be social and open minded in their everyday interactions. They also were more motivated to try new things and try more professional and travel opportunities.
Instagram, which started in 2010, is an image-based platform social media network. Its sharing-photo platform is very unique then the other application when it first started. User could take picture then instantly using filters to customize images and make its look more perfect then share to followers (Rakos). It has affected people’s self identity of being always perfect when they present themselves on social media.
Instagram users want to have more followers and more likes because they feel they are getting attention. They feel there is someone care about them and want to know about them when they received likes and comments. They posted pictures are not only for self-expression but are also hoping to get more likes and more attention to feel fulfilled. It turns out that people only want to show the picture that can get more likes from their audience, they are posting pictures for the audience but not for themselves.
In order to fulfill this need of getting attention, people create this perfect online-identity to present themselves on social media. They use filters and Photoshop to make their face and body shape become perfect. They will ask friends to remove pictures that tags them which they don’t think it’s perfect for its online identity. They don’t want to post something sad because they are concerning their audience won’t like it. They faked pictures to present its life is always happy, positive and living in the highlights. “It is definitely changing how we grow up and figuring out who you are. Teens are always having to manage the highlights reel of their life. That’s really hard because they’re trying to think about audiences they don’t even know,” Jill Walsh, Ph.D., social media and youth development professor at Boston University (Harnish). A lot of Instagram users are living in their perfect online-identity but having a hard time facing its life in reality. This shows that the social media platform like Instagram could really have a strong influences on people’s self identity.
Throughout the exploration of these various social media platforms, it can be very
apparent to see just how easily a person can change their online identity. Though some users
might be completely transparent online or choose to show only a certain version of themselves,
there is always the option and ability to become whoever a person chooses while online. Since
we as humans are such complicated and intricate beings, it is not entirely possible to be fully
ourselves on these platforms, but there are always options to decide what to disclose or not to
disclose. Because of this, it is always important to use this mindset when communicating with or
viewing others’ posts while online or understanding how others might view you. When this is
understood and the psychology behind seeing how others might “transform” themselves into the
being that they want others to see, it becomes even easier to understand how online personalities
can truly differ from real-life personas.
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