Social Media Identity: The Double Edged Sword

How many lives do you really have?  Just one?  I beg to differ.  Nowadays, it seems that people in our society are living two separate lives: a physical human life and a virtual online life.

Just think about the last time you logged onto your favourite social media network.  Whether it was Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, it’s as if our society can’t resist the minute-by-minute updates they receive by constantly checking these sites.  Whether it was the new selfie you uploaded, the status you updated, or the fan page you created, it’s as if our society has to be assured that everything they do in life has an online copy that comes with it.

What has our society come to that we can’t simply go out and have a good time with others without posted every detail about it on social media.  Whether it’s going out to a restaurant or buying a house, with our society surrounded by this social media craze, this is what it has come down to: if you didn’t post it online, did it really happen?

The Science Behind the Social Compliance

People get a serious psychological thrill by being reassured from others that they feel good about themselves.  Remember that photo you just posted of yourself and your best friend?  I bet you’ve been having the urge to check and see how many likes you received or what kind of comments have been posted, and so have hundreds of other people.

Since scientific research has been proven that people use social media as a tool to boast their self-worth and self-esteem.  Therefore is what you see online a true representation of what you expect in person?  Absolutely not.

With the explosion and wide-availability of social media in recent years, there have been brand new services and business that reply solely on social media.  There are hundreds of websites out there from across the world that are devoted to promoting your own personal Facebook posts and tweets from Twitter.  What has our society come down to that social media users feel the need to start purchasing Facebook likes and Twitter followers?

Facebook likes can purchased online for hundreds or thousands of dollars in exchange for countless likes.  This multi-million dollar business feels like it just popped up yesterday, but has a reputation of a decade in the business.  The reality of this business is that it furthers the belief of the dual life that we live.  Everyday there is essential a way to make our online life more and more unrealistic.  Anything from buying Facebook likes from a group of people across the other side of the word whom you never heard of before to the most idealistic photoshoped images.  Have a look at this video demonstrating shocking facts about social media.  And yes, the irony showing facts about social media when the video itself was distributed on social media through YouTube.

The Cold Hard Truth About Social Media

What is represented online of an individual is very never an accurate representation of what you would encounter by walking down the street.  With people having over a thousand “friends” on Facebook, do people even remember how they met half of the people they added on Facebook.  If you really had a thousand “friends” online and posted a simple status requesting help because you are moving houses, how many would actually offer to help?

This is a great example of the appearance versus reality affect.  It appears as if someone has over a thousand friends, but in reality (as a general representation of Facebook) I suspect that the majority of its users don’t even talk to their online friend base on a regular basis.  Therefore asking help to move houses, or walking down the street past that guy you never actually met in real life before but just have him on your friend’s list shows that individuals are really living two separate lives.

The social media craze has largely turned into a huge popularity contest by seeing who can get more likes, comments, and friends and have a very active online profile.  One can definitely have a largely inflated online profile (and ego), but be the complete opposite of a person in real life.

The Darker Side of the Sword

Individuals living the dual online and offline life have certain had the occasion to be caught in an awkward mix up between the two.  While meeting someone in person, it is definitely possible to dictate their personally, meanwhile someone’s online personality can easily de disguised.

For example, employers are continuously seeking out potential candidates by using social media to get an idea of a candidate’s personality and interest to see if their values are in line with those that match the organization to which they are applying for.

Searching for social media profiles of potential candidates can go one of two ways. There are some Facebook profiles that people would be so ashamed if future employers found them, that they have gone to great lengths of changing their entire online identify to hide what’s really underneath their profile.  Anything from changing their Facebook name to removing inappropriate pictures and videos.  On the other hand there are other online profiles that have anything from violence, to excessive alcohol to drug and paraphernalia with a publicly open profile.

This really gets you thinking.  Why would someone post online content that they know they will regret at a later date?  In real life people wouldn’t keep a photo album of inappropriate nude and drunken pictures.  So why do they think it’s okay to post them online?

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Social media can be an incredibly powerful tool for reconnecting with long lost friends and meeting that cousin of yours who lives across the other side of the world.  Nevertheless, in the ever-changing world that we live in, I view social media as one large fad.  Take MySpace for example: once an incredibly popular social networking site has since exponentially lost a tremendous amount of its user base to Facebook.

Meanwhile, research from Princeton University predicts that Facebook will lose 80% of its most active user base from 2015 to 2017 (PC Mag, 2014).  But let this fact sink in: if Facebook’s users represented the population of a country, it would be the 3rd largest country in the world!

The Dual Meaning of Life

Over the years, social media has shown that people can act one way in person, but portray themselves as a completely different individual online.  Some people can be very introverted yet have an incredibly popular and social life online.  Not to mention employers are continuously using social media as their “go-to” tool to finding out inside information on people’s online life.  Meanwhile its users are getting a serious thrill out of posting their “second life” online.

This really gets are society thinking: what did we do before social media and the Internet?  Has social media change our life for the better or has it just created another life that we have to worry about?


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