Does social media really identify us?

By: Cate Talaue

Who are you, really? Social media has become a main part of our everyday lives. Considering platforms such as instagram and Twitter, two social networking sites that have gone viral within the last five years, it is evident how much of an impact social media has in the world and on ourselves. Each platform differs, of course, by means of what people post, how they go about doing it and what is deemed by consumers as appropriate for that site. But then again, they are also one in the same: catering to producers and consumers of Generation N (N for Narcissism) and fuelling the ego within a public sphere.

It occurred to me that there is an embedded discourse of what is deemed appropriate behaviour on both of these social platforms when I came across the following tweets.

“It sucks when u cant take a selfie nice enough to post to satisfy ur midly narcissistic personality [sic].”

“Omg it’s Mar 1 and I live in Canada and it’s not 20 degrees out let me go on twitter and complain.”

“Different social media accounts rep aspects of my personality… vanity->insta, positivity->Facebook, annoying/pointless thoughts… Twitter [sic].”

What these Twitter users have demonstrated just by tweeting, is that they see their opinion to be of some value and more specifically, relatable to other users, otherwise they would not have posted it on a public site. Therefore it is evident that Twitter functions as controlled mouth diarrhoea: thoughts spew on to the keyboard, keeping in mind whether or not other people will deem their thoughts as acceptable i.e relatable on social media.

Similarly, as noted in a couple of the tweets, Instagram functions as pictorially publicizing daily instances that display our lives as being a degree better than what it actually is, hence the option of using a filter. Though the content on Instagram may not be as relatable as is on Twitter, what most people post, myself included, are pictures and videos of things that they believe will get the most attention, i.e. the most ‘likes.’

The hilarity of these discourses lies in the question of how and why these subliminal rules and regulations were implemented. In other words, why do users on these social media sites feel the need to impress their followers and in turn, portray themselves as different people across these platforms? My answer to this question: adhering to what we think an imaginary audience wants from us. Moreover, it is interesting to see that the people who adhere to this discourse of appropriateness and relatable content simultaneously condemn other users for conforming to them as well, as demonstrated by the second tweet.

It seems to me that this discourse mainly functions as encouraging our social media presence and narcissistically publicizing our identity to people on social media that we either do not see on a daily basis, or people we have never seen at all. The option of hashtagging on both of these sites takes this idea to a whole new level, with the objective of projecting ourselves further into a global sphere, hoping to get noticed. Online communication has therefore transformed from conversing with other users to maintaining an identity. As a result, communication in order to socialize, which is the entire premise of online social networking, is slowly diminishing and being replaced with satisfying the ego. Twitter and Instagram: socially acceptable for people to follow us virtually because doing so in real-life is an invasion of privacy and frankly, down right creepy.

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