Media & Technology

Filtering Online Profiles

Social Media enables us to edit together a specific version of ourselves, allowing us to exaggerate certain aspects of our lives and even hide the parts we do not want our followers to see. This article will explore the ways in which people do this, as well as the advantages and disadvantages which could potentially occur from doing so.

Pretty much everyone you know has a social media account, right? Whether that’s a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or Snapchat, it isn’t hard to think of someone in your life who has at least one of these types of online profiles. It’s easy to get immersed into these online worlds, and some of us end up getting into the habit of checking and updating our accounts on a daily basis.

It isn’t hard to fall into this habit as we carry around our online life in our pockets, able to access them at any moment of the day through the apps on our phones. But is everything we put out there to be viewed by friends and followers completely and utterly what we’re actually like in our average off-screen lives? The power of how we wish to display ourselves on social media is quite literally in our hands. Although there are many positive aspects to this power, it’s also got just as many negative ones.

Even though there is no age limitation on who can have a social media account, it’s most popular with the younger generation. Which isn’t the biggest surprise I’m sure, as it’s only natural that younger people would be more interested in the online world as they’ve been born into it. It’s been constantly growing and developing around them since the day they were born. In 2009 it was recorded that 93% of children aged between 12 and 17 were regularly using an online account, with similar results among young people across several other countries. Now that statistic was taken all the way back in 2009, it undoubtedly can have only increased since then, seeing as technology with access to the internet are continuously being redesigned and enhanced.

Isn’t it strange to think that at one time a mobile phone would have just been used for one purpose, to phone people?? Then when the internet was first remarkably put onto these portable phones, an accidental click of the World Wide Web icon on the mobile phone would resort in panic and clicking exit as quickly as a person possibly could, out of fear of being charged a ridiculous amount of extra money. Whereas nowadays a mobile without access to the internet is virtually unheard of. A reason why adolescents are drawn to social media is because of the aspect of being able to easily edit parts of their life, such as filters over that selfie you posted to Instagram because of course, you want to look your absolute best in order to gain those double taps. However, this can also be done through Facebook statuses, and Twitter updates.

What is perceived to be an update of something happening in the user’s life can very easily be turned into a sort of exaggerated tale, done for the same purpose as a filter on an Instagram post, to attract more interest and likes to the post. Telling a story through what they decide to post on their social media accounts, a young person is still finding themselves and their online profile could be seen as experimenting with that, presenting a version of themselves which they wish to be.

Australian teenager, Essena O’Neill is an example of this, except she decided to reveal to the online world this false side of her Instagram profile. In 2015, Essena uploaded a video to YouTube which was dramatically titled ‘‘ESSENA O’NEILL – WHY I REALLY AM QUITTING SOCIAL MEDIA’, in this she shared to whoever wished to watch, her own experience with social media, bringing to light a more negative side of being able to fabricate with ease herself online. The vlog came after the young woman had deleted over 2’000 of her Instagram photographs, editing the captions of the ones she left online to reveal the true story behind the photograph. One of these photos was of Essena at the beach in the appropriate outfit of a bikini, at first glance this would be thought to be a fairly straightforward event, however, the caption tells otherwise. It reads ‘This is what I like to call a perfectly contrived candid shot. Nothing is candid about this. While yes going for a jog and ocean swim before school was fun, I felt the strong desire to pose with my thighs just apart #thighgap, boobs pushed up #vsdoublepaddingtop, and face away because obviously my body is my most likeable asset. Like my photo for my efforts to convince you that I’m really really hot #celebrityconstruct’.

The sarcastic nature of the caption clearly comes across. The most interesting hashtag I find is ‘#celebrityconstrust’, as this is her fully admitting to her thousands of followers how she wished to be perceived as a glamourous celebrity figure, so she made it so through the way she posed, the filters the app offered and a well thought out articulation for the caption. Scrolling through the now completely different Instagram account for Essena, she let it be known on multiple different posts how fake the photograph was, she disclosed how many different photographs she would take in order to get the ‘perfect’ one for her upload, displaying to her followers the honest truth of how what looks to be effortless, is in fact quite the opposite. Therefore, giving the feel that the Essena on the YouTube video is for the first time, is the real Essena. It’s apparent that she’s very emotional while speaking to the camera, she says to the audience ““I’m the girl who had it all and I want to tell you that having it all on social media means absolutely nothing to your real life’. Sharing an important message to others her age who might also be trying to gain social media popularity through falsification.

Also during the confession video, the adolescent explained how she was able to make money through what she posted on social media. This is becoming quite the social normality as in the last couple of years there’s been the rise of the YouTube stars. Surely you’ve heard of ‘YouTubers’, but if not, a quick description of them is that they are online celebrities who have built a career through vlogging. Something which started out as just a hobby, filming some videos in their bedrooms and uploading them to the internet, yes, you can make money from that, a fair amount of money actually. But only if you are likable enough, since the more likable a ‘YouTuber’ is, the more subscribers they will gain and with this come more endorsement deals, their own product brands, movies, books, the list goes on! One of the most popular British Youtube stars is Zoella, real name Zoe Sugg, the 27-year-old online sensation reportedly earns more than a £50,000 a MONTH. That’s a pretty hefty amount. Zoe first set up her channel in 2009 and used it as an outlet, a way to express her identity through making videos about what she was passionate about, mostly being of the beauty and lifestyle nature, this has remained consistent over the years. To date, Zoella has over 11 million subscribers, her own line of ‘Zoella Beauty’ products and a trilogy of fiction novels. Contrasting to Essena O’Neill, Zoella promotes a positive side of expressing yourself online as, over the years, the ‘YouTuber’ has managed to turn an experimental expression of herself into a career.

It’s not just us average people who use social media, it’s also incredibly popular with celebrities, as they are able to give their fans a feeling of having a one on one connection with the celebrity personality. Beyoncé’s Instagram account is filled with lovely family photos, representing to her millions of followers a normal family life.

However, similar to Essena O’Neill, these photographs will in no way be naturally taken, in fact there is no doubt that most of these photographs will have been taken by a professional photographer. The newest way celebrities are including us normal people into their lives is though the app Snapchat, as it allows anyone with a public account to post photos or short videos to a ‘Snapchat Story’ for all their fans who’ve added them to see. A celeb personality who frequently uses this app is Kylie Jenner, the youngest member of the Kardashian/Jenner family, so if Keeping Up with the Kardashians isn’t giving you enough of an insight into the 19 year old’s life, then all you need to do is add her on Snapchat for regular videos exhibiting her celebrity lifestyle. Purposely done by Kylie of course as a way of enticing more and more Snapchat followers with her exclusive look into a lifestyle many other adolescents may be aspiring towards. But to be a true celebrity in the world of social media, you’ve got to be verified, if you’ve got that little blue tick on your Twitter profile, then you’ve made it.

The more serious side to having the blue tick is that it’s done to declare that this is the true account of the celebrity, as it’s exceptionally easy to produce a fake or parody account of multiple celebrities. There are many people, mainly adolescents on social media amplifying their own demeanour, but there’s also people online taking it beyond that; they take advantage of the easiness of the social media profile creating by just producing a whole new person, as a way of deceiving other people on social media. A person who others are unaware of the fact that they do not really exist. The conversations which may occur may be real but everything else even down to the photograph could very simply be forgery. This happens so frequently that now people’s experiences of being suspicious of talking to a fake online profile have made an impact onto mainstream media, with an American TV show being aired, titled Catfish the TV show. Which is in fact hosted by a victim of being misled by a fake identity. The show does a great job of providing entertainment but also of raising awareness to the audience on how easy it is to be deceived online.

Social media is new technology full of fun, experimentation and communication. However, it can also be full of unrealistic aspirations through the ability to edit and deceive so easily online, even to the point that could result in danger from not truly knowing who you are conversing with.