The False Self on Social Media

The ease with which we can edit and manipulate our social media accounts proves that any of these sites allow us to create a false reality, a version of ourselves as we want to be seen, a false self to increase the feeling of self worth, reflected by the number of likes and followers.

How is this for a serious hit to social media? “Ultimately, Facebook is a narcissistic playground where the best, the funniest, the most charming aspects of our lives are publicized and the… boring stuff, the beige that is most of our daily grind almost never gets posted.” (Sorokanich)

Sadly, that is one of the least disturbing things that experts have to say about social media.

One report explained that, “The development of long lasting meaningful relationships is diminishing due to social media. There’s a lack of emotional connections being made.” (The Social Disconnect of Social Media, 2014).

Another journalist expressed serious worry about the actual value of social media, saying, “I was supplementing my real, physical life as a human being with something superficial and untrue to myself. I want authentic relationships with strong connections that have an actual, not virtual, value.” (Farewell to Facebook’s False Reality, 2015)

Speaking at the Lithium Technologies LiNC conference in San Francisco, Forrester Research vice president Nate Elliott dropped some truth on brand managers: you don’t build a community on social or have any meaningful customer relationships.

There’s no community there. This notion of “build a community on Facebook,” I’ve never seen any brand successfully build a long-term community on Facebook. Maybe around a topic for a week, people come together, but conversations aren’t threaded. They’re not archived. There’s never been a meaningful community there. Even pages that get lots of likes on posts, and comments and shares, there’s not a community there.

So, the good news is that the backlash has begun and, perhaps, social media is going to slowly lose its mass following as subsequent generations of users recognize most social media platforms for what they are – anti-social.

Some might also argue that social media platforms are premium marketing systems that gather an impressive amount of data about consumers without their ever noticing. That, for the most part, is true, as well, but what we have to be most concerned with is the how the two million social media outlets available around the world are insinuating themselves into our daily lives.

Social Media Friendship – Real versus Virtual

Social Media Friendship

The choice of the word “friend” by Facebook creators is an instant clue to the goals they had in mind for their millions of users. They wanted Facebook account holders to see the people with whom they network as friends, and yet the connections don’t really warrant that title.

After all, Merriam Webster defines a friend as, “A person who you like and enjoy being with.” One is hardly “with” an online friend, even when using online chat tools. Certainly, you are sharing information, thoughts, and ideas, but it is a radically desensitized approach to interaction and human communication. In fact, it is really the polar opposite of friendship.

Consider that studies now reveal that up to 75% of people using social networks experience disrupted sleep in the evening hours after using them. And even worse is that half of users surveyed pointed out that social media made their self-esteem diminish and their lives seem less vibrant or even interesting because of the seeming perfection of their “friends” lives. And here, as Shakespeare said, is the “rub”. Why? Because, psychologists tell us that a friend is worthy of that title when they are committed to your happiness, refuse to ask you to compromise your principles, and is a good influence.

These are not aspects of virtual relationships, and you cannot cultivate them through online exchanges. In fact, one study showed that there are some “telltale” indicators when social media is negatively influencing a user.

These signs include a harmful effect to mood. It isn’t just self-esteem but mood in general that is deflated by use of social media. Distraction is another indicator that social media is overriding your reality and leaving you unhappy with real-world situations. Another problem caused by social media is a decreasing ability to communicate well in one-on-one settings. People are now struggling with the urge to grab a phone or mobile device to check in on their various social media accounts while in the presence of actual human company.

The German term schadenfreude (which translates to “harm-joy”) is another sign that social media is the opposite of friendship, as well. This is because a common result of reliance on social media rather than actual friendship is relishing the misfortune of others – meaning our “friends”. And those broadcasting such misfortunes across social media are also revealing yet another startling element of this setting – the desire to get attention of any kind in order to boost self-esteem.

Life is meant for living in the present, and in reality. Most of us would be far happier without the artifice of social media, and if you find that it has been harming your self-esteem, drop out and just get out there and live life – there are plenty of friends to be found offline.