“You don’t have Facebook?” an American exchange student asks incredulously. “How do you survive?” she inquires with the intensity of a neurosurgeon performing brain surgery. She seems impressed for a moment as she murmurs “Facebook is like water to me.”
Welcome to the digital media era, where social media networks are considered a pivotal tool for life endurance, grouped within the same terrain as basic necessities. How do I survive? By breathing in oxygen, eating a healthy diet, drinking two litres of water a day and being wary on the road, I wanted to retort. Instead, I flicked my hair and smirked “Facebook’s old news, I use Snapchat, Whatsapp, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr, desperately trying to increase my cultural capital.
Facebook is a form of public performance
The truth? Snapchat and Whatsapp are more of a private means of communication that don’t require the public curation of a user profile. People can only find you if they have your phone number or username. It’s a direct way of communication, with less identity performance requirements. Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr are more anonymous and community oriented. They encourage the user to disseminate streams of information and connect with others that may have similarly vested interests. It’s more about sharing your opinions, hobbies, the latest trends, integrating into a subculture and staying up to date on current affairs, than focusing dominantly on your public projection. The medium is the message and Facebook’s primary focus has always been on portraying a paradoxically public personal image.
Expectation: I know everything about her, I’ve stalked her on Facebook vs Reality: You know nothing
I’ve never been a big fan of social media, mainly because it is so transparent in a false way. We censor and project what we want the public to see. Our highlight reels are shown but the loopholes, the in-between moments of despair are lingering behind the scenes, invisible to everyone else. That being said, I’m a hypocrite. When I send photos on Snapchat or Whatsapp, I position myself in deceptive angles. Even less candidly, I put a filter on my photos. I understand the false concealment of social media. Anyone can edit and curate a cocoon of perceived happiness on their feed. We have seen self-esteems plummet due to the comparisons of their unfiltered reality, with someone else’s idealised projection of themselves.
You’re probably thinking ‘No one likes to post unflattering photos, that’s blatantly obvious’. So let me propose a question ‘Why do so many often feel a sense of loneliness and longing for someone else’s online life?’.
Our incentive to post on social media is dominantly derived from the need to let others know that our life is buzzing. Living in this generation, nothing seems legitimate unless everyone has seen it. What if that glorious moment wasn’t captured for the world to see? How real is it then, if no one knows? WE HAVE TO CAPTURE IT NOW AND SHOW EVERYONE WE’RE HAVING FUN AND LOOKING GOOD. This kind of mentality is exactly why I deleted Facebook.
Despite my departure from Facebook, I discovered that censoring our reality extends past the digital sphere and permeates our reality. Who can honestly say they speak freely about the things they are ashamed of? There’s still a stigma associated with disclosing your mental pain. There’s a tinge of pride that envelopes many, preventing them from candidly reporting negative details, for fear of a blip on their glossy exterior. Perhaps social media has amplified this need to always accelerate and never reveal setbacks. If you reveal setbacks, you’re labelled ‘brave’, in a world where many are subconsciously dancing to the tune of an engineered ideal. And you know what? There’s a part of me that still hopes to evoke acceptance via a positively amplified version of myself. Why? Because I’m a human and my shortcomings still embarrass me.