Social Media: The Online Mirror Reflecting Who We Aren’t

The following post is an opinion piece I wrote last year for a Media Studies Journalism unit: 

Social media plays a big part in the modern girl’s life. Why shouldn’t it? We can stay in touch with our loved ones, get beauty advice and keep up with the latest fashion trends, among other things. Social media does, however, have a shortfall. As an easily accessible platform for people to write whatever they like, without proving any credentials, a world of online “personalities” and ideal images has been created.

Think about online dating. You create a profile where you are asked to write something about yourself. You start off listing your interests and hobbies but then begin to accentuate your positives and leave out the negatives. Before you know it, a completely different person from who you are in real life is presented to anyone who comes across your profile. Suddenly, it’s not online dating, but instead, an opportunity to create the fantasy you.

If you head over to Pinterest, along with 31 million other people, you will find that the majority of “Pinners” have a “My Style” board, “DIY” board and “Food” board. The outcome of this is that most people on Pinterest are portrayed as being super stylish, incredibly creative and gourmet chefs. For those of us who don’t fall into those categories, and prefer to pin things that, we would actually buy/make/cook in real life, it can begin to make us feel inferior and defeated.

It’s not only dating websites and Pinterest that have us creating our imagined selves. A more relatable example is Facebook. How many times have you untagged a photo of yourself because you decided it was unsatisfactory for the online world to see?

When untagging said photo’s, Facebook asks why you want the photo untagged. Among “This photo shouldn’t be on Facebook” and “This photo is spam”, there is actually also “I don’t want others to see me in this photo”. Why not? Because when we are online, we want to look the best. Why? Because, online, we have the control as to how others view us. And, if you use this to your advantage, you can become very powerful indeed.

Kristen Dold, writer for the popular Australian magazine Women’s Health, recently wrote an article explaining how to climb your career ladder, using various forms of social media. She wrote, “Tweeting clever insights or posting how-to videos on YouTube can help you build a following and position yourself as an expert.” But that’s just it. You can use social media to not only make yourself seem more fashionable/healthy/better than you actually are, but you can “position yourself as an expert.” You can allow people to believe that you have more expertise in any given field than you actually do.

It’s like Carol Burnett once said: “Words, once they are printed, have a life of their own.” This is especially true in this day and age, where you can share your thoughts and words with the world at just the touch of a button.

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