Social media is a sandstorm that has changed our exterior massively. In fact, the exterior has changed so much that the real “we” is lost somewhere. And rational minds feel compelled to think, “Are we really ‘we’ on social media?” The answer to this question is ‘No’. We are not ‘we’ on social media because our identities are fake, emotions are manipulated, and minds are rented.
To begin with, the identities we develop on social media do not represent our true selves. Majority of the pictures posted on these sites are cropped and filtered to give birth to a reality that does not exist. This fabricated reality results in the construction of different beliefs about one’s own self, and even puts forward a false notion of one’s personality. And we desire to strengthen our false identities by any means possible without even knowing the consequences. As Anna Akbari says in her article ‘Identity in the Age of Social Media’ that ‘we’re hyper-obsessed with earning followers and digital accolades at any price—even if it means denying huge portions of our [real] identities.’ As a result, mimicking the concept of ‘Like me and Follow me’, author Bret Easton Ellis remarks that millennials have become a ‘duller versions of themselves’.
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In addition to identity, emotions are also manipulated on social media sites. We tend to ‘like’ something which we, in fact, did not like. Despite the fact, we press the like icon to show false appreciation of something. In a similar vein, the photos we post sometimes do not represent the true and current emotional state of ourselves. This series of manipulated emotions lead people to believe that we are happy in our lives and have everything we need to survive well, no matter how lonely we feel inside. Psychologist Robert Weiss calls this ‘emotional loneliness’ in which one has many connections but none of them offers support and belongingness. This notion is endorsed by Associate Professor of Sociology, Roger Patulny who writes ‘without close, physical connections, shallow virtual friendships can do little to alleviate emotional loneliness’.
We have fake identities, unreal emotions and borrowed thoughts. How long can we survive with our unreal ‘we’?
Lastly, the minds of most social media users are rented. We do not -or to be direct, cannot- express ourselves in words of our own. We have a great tendency to copy others’ words to express our own thoughts and feelings. Ideas are copied also to demonstrate certain behavior that fosters false identity creation or manipulates others’ emotions in a way. This copycat culture deprives the real authors of their due credit. But, more importantly, it robs us of our ability to think and form an opinion about something. The popular thing is the day’s post for us.
To sum up, social media has worked like a whirl and has taken everything by storm. The result is such a great alteration in our attitudes, behaviors and mindsets that we seem to have lost ourselves somewhere on social media. We have fake identities, unreal emotions and borrowed thoughts. How long can we survive with our unreal ‘we’?
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Kamran Akhtar Siddiqui is a lecturer in English at Sukkur IBA University. He is currently pursuing his MPhil in Education and doing his research on the topic of Challenges for Students in EMI classrooms. The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this article are writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.