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Social Media: Where Real People Go to Die

Social networking sites do a lot to bring people all around the world together; old friends reunite and new relationships begin. While this is generally what many people think of social media, that really is not the case. Yes, people are connected more than ever, thanks to these sites, but real relationships are not being built. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all serve as places where people get insights into the lives of others and establish some form of connection. What these sites fail to do, however, is show who people really are. There is a big difference between who certain people are like in real life and what they project themselves as online. Everyone, including I, is guilty of this to some extent. The question then becomes can this be avoided or is that just what social networking sites are all about?

Is Facebook Real?
Meghan Casserly’s “Multiple Personalities And Social Media: The Many Faces of Me” deals with the different ways people present themselves. The way we all are on social media is not how we may be in real life.

Facebook vs. Reality

Facebook vs. Reality

I, personally, know many people who are very talkative on Facebook and Twitter but very shy in person. On one hand, this is a good thing because these sites give the voiceless a voice. People who may possess very useful input on certain issues but are unable to open up to someone in person have this platform to let their ideas out. In addition to allowing people to open up on things they normally would not be able to speak on, “friendships” are formed easier. Instead of having to talk to an individual, get to know him/her, and establish a certain bond that would then lead to a friendship, all you have to do is click a button and you become someone’s “friend.” I use the term “friend” loosely; that is actually the point I am making here.
A Facebook friendship is not a real friendship. Only on Facebook can you never have met a person but still regard them as a “friend.” So while Facebook and other social networking sites serve as platforms for people to speak up and extend their horizons, on the other hand, social networking sites create a world outside of reality. Many people live lives very different from their realities on social media and, as such, relationships established are superficial. What makes Facebook unreal is the fact that you have the power to shape what people get to see. Your “friends” only see the statuses you decide to put up, the posts to opt to share, and the photos you choose to upload. This is very different from reality because there are external forces that are out of our control which play huge roles in what happens in our daily lives and activities.

Is Twitter Any Better?

Elissa Stein’s “Twitter vs. Real World” article also deals with the superficial side of social networking. Twitter, which began as a medium for fans to interact with their favorite celebrities, has now turned into a celebrity-maker. People who created Twitter accounts to feel closer to celebrities now use it as an opportunity to make a name for themselves. As someone who uses twitter daily, I bear witness to this everyday. There are many people who devote all their time to Twitter. These people spend a vast majority of their time awake following thousands of people with the hope of getting some of these people to follow them back. They build up their number of followers just for the sake of it and live for ‘retweets and ‘favorites.’ Now on Twitter, there are thousands of personalities with thousands (sometimes even millions) of followers but possess no real talents. Such people are known as Twitter-famous; many people know of their existence on Twitter but have no idea who they are beyond their tweets and profile avatar. This Twitter culture is an interesting one because most of these people find comfort in their online popularity. Unlike real celebrities, they work 9-5 jobs, go to normal schools, and live just like the average person, but are elevated to levels of prominence behind their computers. The problem with this is that certain undeserving people gain too much power; the more Twitter followers they have, the more people their ignorant tweets reach, the more people retweet these opinions, and the more people are exposed to ignorance.

What About Instagram?
Just like on Twitter, there is now a growth in the number of Instagram-famous people.

InstaFamous

InstaFamous

These Instagram personalities also gain a strong following online but happen to be average people in real life. Instagram takes the unreal life to a higher level. Simon Dumenco’s “Instagram Is OK, But Photoshop Is Evil? The Truth About Digital Lies” excellently highlights all the negative aspects of the social networking site. Instagram has grown into the biggest house of lies of them all. As a site solely based on visuals, one gains popularity by having the best photos. This has led Instagram users to go above and beyond to ensure that their photos garner approval from those who see it. The creators of Instagram encourage the alteration of reality with their filters, which help enhance a photo’s beauty. In other words, the Instagram creators realize that reality is not good enough and must be altered. Photo filters allow users look how they would rather look. Dumenco’s article talks about how using filters and other photo enhancements is regarded as normal even though it is pretty much the same as Photoshop, which is frowned upon. There is a joke among guys about how you cannot trust what you see online because girls do not look as good in person as they do online, and this is many ways can be attributed to Instagram photo filters.

Social media in certain cases creates an extreme escape from reality where people develop personalities absolutely different from theirs; for instance ‘Catfish’ cases. This is common on Twitter, especially, with parody accounts of celebrities and fictional characters. But the vast majority of social media personalities are enhancements of reality. People select to show only what they want others to see on social networking sites. In order to post a “selfie” on Instagram, one takes about twenty pictures, selects the best one, uses effects that hide flaws, all before posting it. While one may argue that these posts still have some truth to them, they still are altered truths. People are selective of what sides of them they show on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and, as such, merely knowing a person through these sites does not make him/her your friend. At the end of the day, everyone has multiple personalities; the real one and the one that shows up on social media.

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