Is anyone else familiar with the feeling of seeing something online; a break up via Facebook, a series of status updates that are passive aggressive, or even a Tumblr or Livejournal post that give a little more insight than expected. Then the next day in the real world, even though everyone else has seen it, no one talks about it. Sometimes I feel like I am living in two worlds for this reason.
Online I see so much more of friends than I do in real life. Everyone does it, looking at other people’s profiles, checking and back checking their pictures or statuses for something interesting. But in reality why do we do this? We do it to compare. I know that even if I am not actively trying to do it, I am prone to looking at other people’s profiles and comparing their pictures to my own. People who update photos and statuses everyday seem to have very active social lives.
If I remember my days of Myspace clearly; my entire knowledge of one girl came from those surveys people would fill out. She seemed really nice, but I never actually had a conversation with her, to this day. The funny part of that is she definitely learned about me the same way, but again we never talked. Then the strangest thing began to occur to me; I knew a lot about these people online, but in real life I had to act like I did not even know them. I can remember feeling so much like an outcast and an insider at the same time. And if the movie The Social Network is any indication, that is the whole point. We are supposed to be under a microscope constantly, but never actually talk about it.
Interestingly, Facebook might be boosting self-esteem according to research at Cornell. Researchers compared self-esteem scores on surveys after allowing participants to view their own profile, or look at themselves in a mirror. Those who actually viewed their profile rated themselves higher, because of the effect of being able to select out traits that they liked about themselves, and highlight them. Essentially it is being able to pick your favorite profile picture rather than look in a mirror and see yourself where you cannot control what is actually reflected back to you. The control of our own profiles makes us feel better about how people may perceive us.
More than that they feed narcissism according to one researcher at York University, whose findings suggest that people who check their Facebook more than normal, have more narcissistic traits. “I think people get sort of defensive about it – like, ‘I don’t use my Facebook for that reason’ – because it’s a label that you don’t want to be slapped with.” said researcher Soraya Mehdizadeh. Though this does not necessarily mean that Facebook is making people more narcissistic, just think about how you feel after going on Facebook; often at times, because Facebook is simulating reality, people end up feeling by comparisons to others, less interesting or even less liked. I can recall seeing people’s statuses saying they got internships or getting really impressive grades and feeling like I was performing at a sub-par level. This effect is what makes kids feel like losers at home as well as at school. Social media makes it difficult to run away from social labels.
Instead of having a private life away from social life, we bring social life into our homes, and in some cases it travels with us no matter where we go thanks to the iPhone. Since there is nowhere to disappear and avoid social labels, people internalize them more, and they take on a greater significance in how we identify ourselves.
Feature Photo by Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot