Media & Technology

Pressured Identities in Social Networking

Tabitha Tuer-Mckee will be exploring how social networking sites have influenced and changed how individuals socialise, creating a pressure to constantly update their online profiles; ultimately affecting the real world. Tabitha will be specifically reviewing the positive influences and damaging consequences Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have on society.

In today’s society we are obsessed with social networking and being able to keep our profiles active and constantly updated. We are becoming more concerned with how we present ourselves to the online community rather than who we are in our real lives. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter seem to be the most influential entities to invade our life in the past twenty years – from tweeting about our social, political and economic views in the world to artistically ‘instagramming’ and ‘hashtagging’ what we had for dinner last night. The online world is completely overshadowing the real world and how we traditionally socialise with others. It feels as though society cannot survive or even function without posting it across social media.

First we have to explore why in the last twenty years social networking has become the most important device in changing the way individuals choose to communicate and learn about their surroundings. The successful birth of social networking started after the failed attempt of MySpace and Friendster in early 2003, when Mark Zuckerberg entered the sophisticated world of social networking with Facebook in 2004. This then influenced a chain of other sites being developed such as Twitter, only two years later which by 2012, had over 100 million users posting 340 million tweets a day. This was followed in 2010, when American programmer, Kevin Systrom and Brazilian software engineer, Mike Krieger created the second most popular social networking app Instagram.

Over a period of six years, social media had developed in to a worldwide phenomenon being available on all aspects of technology. The combination of all three sites transformed the way we view the online world and how we communicate, make friends, discover the latest news and project our interests, likes and dislikes. Technology is always changing, and developers are always finding new ways to access these sites and easily build online profiles.

Everyone has a mobile phone and, through smart phones, these sites are imprinted into the devices through apps to make logging in, creating and updating our profiles instant and accessible. For those who have not dived in to the world of social networking yet; Facebook is, statistically, used to talk to friends instantly while scrolling through the lives of users profiles, Twitter is commonly used to express our feelings and opinions in 140 character tweets and Instagram, to build a virtual scrapbook of our personal lives publicly.

This self-representative nature is essential in demonstrating individual personality, not only through physical appearance in photographs, but through how we perceive ourselves to the online community through sharing, posting and updating our personal interests, hobbies and preferences. We have the power and independence to construct and manipulate our personal information by selecting specific material for other users to see on our pages and profiles. Facebook allows us to update our music tastes, book preferences, the celebrities we admire and how we choose to style ourselves – by publicly posting this we are able to widen our social group and find others that have a similar interest.

Like Facebook, Instagram acts as our own personal canvas where we can edit and filter photographs in an artistic and creative way to emphasise our personality visually. Social media is currently the advancement in expressing our voice in a world that often seems too big to manage. I feel like I can speak for everyone when I say, our generation cannot imagine a life without these technological advances.

However, it is important to consider the consequences these sites have on reality. People often seem more engrossed in a virtual world than what is really happening in reality – sometimes we forget how to communicate with our friends and family without having to refer to our online accounts. For example, I often find myself having a conversation with someone and then I start to explain a story that had happened to me and the conversation is then stopped by “oh yeah, I saw that on your status the other day” – this then kills the conversation completely, and there’s nothing to speak about. If we constantly update and write about our lives online, then it becomes difficult to find a new topic to speak about with our real friends and family. Even when we are sat with our loved ones physically, we are constantly checking and updating our profiles. The worst example of our phones controlling our lives is when we go on a night out, rather than just enjoying the atmosphere people become pressured to take photos and videos and upload them on to a pixelated world.

When do we draw a line between reality and virtual reality?

In a similar sense, this pressure to constantly update our accounts also affects how we view ourselves. Instagram in particular, displays thousands of overly edited selfies, from users creating the perfect image of themselves. In a way this is good because we can initially create a picture we want, enhancing our features and giving us the tools to hide blemishes and create flawless skin. However, in reality it’s just not realistic and we often find ourselves being deeply dissatisfied with our physical selves. The virtual world overpowers reality, and we reject who we really are, who our true friends are and overall breaking the traditional concept of socialising.

Social Networking has improved some aspects of the real world – for example it has become easier to communicate with people instantly and to widen social circles. Instagram and Facebook have enabled individuals to express their personalities, interests and events in daily life visually. Twitter also allows ordinary people to express their political voices, especially in the latest conflict with Brexit and the USA presidency. However, it is important to identify the consequences social media have on reality as it is hindering physical socialising, real personalities and appearances we have to the world. We are becoming extremely pressured to fixate our time and effort in the real world to update these virtual profiles.

Maybe, we should focus more on our lives than we do on social media? So turn off your phones for one afternoon and experience the intimacy of life before Facebook dominates society.