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An Analysis of Social Media and the Loss of Individualsim

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AN ANALYSIS OF SOCIAL MEDIA AND LOSS OF INDIVIDUALISM | The Literary Blues

Dec. 18th, 2014

AN ANALYSIS OF SOCIAL MEDIA AND LOSS OF INDIVIDUALISM

Written by Tristan Naraine

Within the last two decades, advancements in technology have led to the birth of a plethora of social media platforms worldwide. Social media, which started out as a virtual means to connect with old friends from high school and discuss common interests, has emerged into a socially powerful force that has integrated itself quite well into society. While this emergence of social media has been somewhat of a creative force, providing a cultural and intriguing exchange of ideas, in reality, however, social media has quickly begun to transform into a center of social anxiety and pressure, forcing societal norms, attitudes, behaviors, media, material goods, and personalities onto us. And while social media attempts to craft this perfect view of life, close analysis of images and information suggests otherwise. Social media’s skewed story-telling of events, lifestyles, as well as sociocultural constructs like gender prove that, in reality, social media is an agent of conformity. And acting as this agent, social media, in turn, is responsible for promoting exaggerated documentation in our lives online, engendering socially anxiety, and contributing to the widespread loss of individualism in users, a trait in need of revival.

Social Media in the Contemporary Context

When you awoke this morning, did you check Instagram for what you were going to wear? Or, at lunchtime, did you take a picture of what you ate? Or, perhaps, when you were bored, did you scroll through Facebook and encounter an article on how a celebrity spent her day? For most of us, social media has become an integral part of our daily lives, filling in moments of boredom, providing a forum to connect to distant friends, and serving as an informal reference to the recent occurrences in the world. However, as we all have seen, these posts come with the most glamorous pictures- the best lighting and makeup, well-matched clothing, broad smiles, the most breath-taking panoramas- and ingeniously worded text. These are all examples of social media’s disguising act of turning exaggerations into realities. As a result, we falsely define what we consume on social media as truth, and in turn, an interminable desire to keep up with socially promoted norms, forms. Specifically, one of the ways in which social media engenders damage to our well-beings is the fabrications of truths, or lies formed by users in their posts, statuses, and uploaded media.

Skewed Perceptions of Events

Documentation of events on social media, whether through pictures or statuses, have been skewed by users in a variety of ways. In recent years, one of the most common uses for social media networking sites like Facebook or Twitter has been to report recent events in users’ lives. Moreover, users choose events like parties, weddings, and hangouts with friends to document the fun, crazy, interesting, loving, etc. special moments of the night. However, in recent studies, users falsely exaggerate the feelings that accompany and the experience of these events, creating an alternate situation altogether. For instance, in Online Deception on Social Media, researchers noted that “tampering with images [on social media] is an efficient way to fake content such as representing that an individual traveled all around the world in one’s photos by altering them and broadcast these images using social media. Such strategy may help a deceiver to elevate their social status” (Tsikerdekis). In other words, altering the event in the eyes of the users create a more intriguing and significant experience for users to engage in as well as boosts the individual’s profile by seeming more learned and happy.

Though, this growing trend of skewing information has not gone unnoticed by average users and common consumers. In fact, the average user is well-aware of the distinctive difference between social media and reality. Particularly, the current phenomenon is probably best depicted in the video created by the Norwegian filmmakers, the Higton Bros. The satirical video , “What’s on your mind?”, follows a male in his daily encounters and his accompanying posting activities on social media while highlighting the dichotomy of both worlds. Taking this example:

although it seems as if the protagonist is partying and having the best night of his life, in reality, however, the protagonist is in his car, lonely and wallowing (Lowry). And so, the video characterizes the anxious and deceptive nature of social media, both created and consumed by its users.

Social Constructions in Appearance and Gender

The negative effects of social media do not just end there. In this age of endless information, users’ selfies, model images, and constructed cultures such as that of gender on social media collectively contribute to the loss of identity and confidence online. Particularly, male audiences, experienced lowered confidence as a result of stereotypical implications of images on social media. Selfies (taken by oneself) and self- portraits (taken by a third party photographer) have, within the last year, flooded social media sites, with some users posting photos of themselves multiple times a day. And while selfies have come to emphasize one’s beauty or handsomeness and personality, the overload of images flowing through social media has, in actuality, reversed the effect. As Siiback argues inConstructing Masculinity on a Social Networking Site: The Case-study of Visual Self-presentations of Young Men on the Profile Images of SNS Rate, “[t]he self-advertising of these youngsters on the site is in many ways built upon the same codes used by the male models appearing in the advertisements in men’s and women’s magazines… Passivity and narcissism are visible on the photos” (Siibak, A). Another study surveying young males similarly claimed “that exposure to media images of idealized male bodies – both slender and muscular – increases a male’s body dissatisfaction” (Galioto, Rachel, and Janis H. Crowther). In other words, users’ self-marketing (such as through selfies) indulge in the norms of beauty engendered by idealized body images in advertisements.

Similarly, a study on new media and young women observes “even as society has come to recognize the health risks posed by ultra-thin images of feminine beauty (Hartocollis, 2013), pictures of thin, sometimes photo-shopped, comparison other are widely available on social networking sites”( Perloff, Richard M). In effect, young women “peruse pictures of attractive and less attractive others on a host of social networking sites, engage in upward and downward comparisons, ruminate about parts of their bodies that make them look bad, and end up feeling unhappy about their bodies” (Perloff, Richard M). Whether by incorporating socially constructed aspects of in their own photos (and themselves), or by penetrating their individual self-worth and confidence after consumption, social media slowly conforms all its users to its own constructs of gender and appearance.

FOMO and Social Anxiety

As a result of the surplus of information on social media, the trends that are forced upon us, and the false documentation practice, users have begun to develop FOMO, or the Fear of Missing Out. The Fear of Missing Out, cleverly coined in the Oxford and Urban dictionaries, is the socially anxious response to keep up with social norms in new media. Commonly, users often are passively scrolling through their social media feeds until they encounter a status, or photo expressing how ‘rad’ a friend’s party or special night out. Suddenly, the social media viewer begins to feel left out, isolated, and uninvolved in the recent popular event or phenomenon that ensued. To put in differently, according to Social Media Today, “social media causes FOMO by providing a constant reminder of what is going on without you, creating anxiety when you don’t know those details” (Marse, Amie). To no surprise then, a survey taken by TimeRazor and collected by Infographic found that an alarming 48% teen and 58% adult millennials affirmed to feeling overwhelmed by and obliged to stay current with social media (TimeRazor). Further adding to the alarming situation, 63% of teen and 67% of adult millennials felt that social media pressures them to convey only a certain image of themselves, rather than all of who they are (TimeRazor). Hence, all of this evidence makes it overwhelmingly apparent that social media, through its endless surplus of incoming information, events, and personalities, plays a significant role in the large problem of widespread confusion in identity today, particularly the loss of individuality of users.

Call for Action: The Road Towards Individualism

With our eyes now open to the negative, deleterious presences of FOMO and the widely spanning influence of social media, there needs to be a wider conversation about our preserving our identities and social media’s threat to our well-beings. While social constructs and inflictions of conformity on the people have been a timeless issue to deal with, the combined forces of new media and rapidly advancing technology have made it more convenient and effortless to consume our minds with all sorts of thoughts. For this exact reason, the discussion over how social media affects our life and participates in our life consciously or unconsciously needs to occur. The immediacy of this issue affects us all as in matter of seconds as it could be with just one touch our lives are subjected to the skewed perceptions of social media. Though, in order to begin to combat this problem, certain reforms must be made.

Firstly, the most beneficial step to take would be reducing time spent on social media platforms- and yes- that includes Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest- and excuses, such as “I use social media for work” cannot prevail. Secondly, a realization needs to be made. Users must realize that life continues offline and that perhaps these norms and constructs indeed do not work for them. To put this other words, if one desires to make a change in his life or desires to express himself creatively and/or passionately, one should take steps in real life to create his identity. One must learn in his own life, through his own choices and emotions, the person he wants to be; norms and constructs on social media, contrarily, will not benefit the user as these standards seem to only benefit a small group of people. Third and foremost, the individual must remind both himself and others who are experiencing FOMO to not feel discouraged but to think out of the box social media often puts us in. This way, the discussion can potentially reform the type of information and presentation of media that shows up on our newsfeeds on social media platforms, and therefore change the face of social media overall and more importantly, eliminate the presence of FOMO and social anxious behaviors within ourselves. In effect, with all these steps in mind, we can create a change bigger than us but still preserve our identities.

Conclusion

As an ever-changing society, the conversation on the influence of new media in our lives becomes increasingly prevalent. Particularly of concern right now, social media, has infiltrated many sectors of our lives, erecting conventions and conveying messages that seem to be out of our reach. Furthermore, the unpacking of the various activities and attitudes of social media including the frequent need to post online, the wide exchange of personalities, ideas, and media, and lurking anxieties make social media’s influence even more daunting. However, with the progressive actions of regulating social media in one’s life and starting honest conversation about what social media has been doing, not only can we begin to understand the force of social media, but we can also begin to filter what social media inputs. And consequently, we are left with a greater gifts than any of our selfies, statuses, photos, or any other medium can give us: true individualism and happiness. So, now it is your choice: Will you let go of social media (commence “Let It Go” from the movie “Frozen”), or will you let social media define ‘happiness’ for you?

DMU Timestamp: November 09, 2018 23:10





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