The Internet has become the chief catalyst propelling humanity into the future, as the boundless hub of information continues to expand, distant communication has made earth a prodigiously connected planet. Whilst the Internet infinitely inflates more sites are shifting away from conveying legitimate information and creating personalized pockets. Social Media is a rapidly growing phenomenon, from 2010 to 2017 social media users excelled from 970 Million to 2.46 billion with expectance of over 3 billion by 2021; in 2017, 71% of Internet users had a social media account*.
With the influx of attention online people are granting excessive value on social media status, manufacturing moments and propagating an image in attempt to surge digital capital. Currently, it seems increasingly common for users to showcase themselves in a particular light whilst neglecting aspects of authenticity. With obsessive tendencies towards online status many lose touch with the tangible world, reality is repeatedly misconstrued when popularity holds primacy.
Freedom of Slander
The explosion of social media has lead to three predominant platforms for creating an online presence, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The first two are primary vehicles for people to voice their opinions. The power to simultaneously communicate one’s views with countless others installs a sense of pre-eminence in individuals. As one increases their posting rate, an ineluctable urge to pontificate opinion accompanies the growth of perceived saliency.
Without a need to define a statement’s legitimacy individuals believe they have the right to judge without support of genuine knowledge. With this digital freedom of speech, people often forget the access others have to transcribe their thoughts onto platforms, tactless retorts routinely accompanying the challenge of opinion. What is precarious with these platforms is people select the information they are exposed to, with the confluence of algorithms an individual will only see information nurturing their biases.
If people don’t confront opposing views regularly they’re prone to have an almost allergic reaction to them preventing adequate assessment. Detrimentally, if one cannot have an open discussion about topics they restrict the robustness of their own view. By insolating ideas people cement their beliefs as a benchmark others should follow, this conceit will inevitably create a bubble shielding their presumptions from reality. Without sourcing the origin of information one can gorge on attractive fallacies, enlarging their appetite for predilection pampering.
Hooked on Likes
How often does one witness people taking a photo of a landscape or monument whilst being somewhat oblivious that they’re actually blocking the image’s supposed emphasis? Is the location seen for what it is or are eyes honed onto the potential for digital capital? Instagram has engendered a channel where people are becoming increasingly unaware of what’s actually occurring around them in pursuit of the almighty likes; moments not experienced, but captured for distribution.
With emphasis on how others will perceive them people habitually begin to construct a sensationalistic version of the truth, addicted to the feedback of likes and comments, their highest count becomes a benchmark to be beaten. Once one regularly receives a hit of likes it is not too long before they alter behaviour for more. Everyone enjoys hearing flatteries about their looks and for some this can be a great confidence builder, yet, if one’s temperament is dictated by the complements of others their disposition will become secondary to their online appearance.
Teddy Roosevelt wrote, “Comparison is the thief of joy”, his words are more illuminating today than when they were transcribed. Spending copious amounts of time on social media leads consumers to compare their lives with those they view online. Overlooking disingenuous representations many start to feel unsatisfied with their own existence, and the evolution of the “influencer” has people falling prey to the programmed image of a picturesque lifestyle.
When people begin to juxtapose their lives with others they forget they are witnessing a synthetic stream, individuals present themselves how they endeavour to be seen with actuality firmly concealed. There needs to be increased awareness to the adverse effects this has on the psyche, orientating effort to attain the confirmation of others means focus on the self is halted, seeking contentment externally whilst neglecting its endogenous origin.
In Pursuit of Digital Capital
There are also many benefits of social media and they can’t be ignored. It began with the notion of people connecting efficiently from a distance, instantly linking people who otherwise would have lost association. It has been used to spread quality information and help people of a similar mindset find a place where they feel accepted, however, social media is designed to hijack attention and hook people on an endless torrent of stimulation.
The technology has advanced to where it’s become an instrumental tool for brands to command attention and propel themselves into their market. Positive as this may be, it also offers brands a medium to speciously alter the consumer’s perception and expectations, turning reality into artificiality to sell authenticity to the consumer.
Click bait is a prime example of how attention is stolen; a hyperbolic headline attached to a salacious image intends to impede thought and direct it towards a tangential investigation of rumours and gossip. During these inquiries personal benefit is scant, the false sense of superiority felt when judging others temporarily fills the void of one’s own inadequacies.
Sponsored content is not always as apparent as click-bait but it shapes the mind in a similar fashion. People are seduced by an idyllic image an “influencer” posts with intention of getting them attracted to a product or service. Although a great marketing tool, it can also be devious when in attempt to portray a particular image these “influencers” don’t explicitly allude to who’s funding their posts. This morally questionable activity entices impressionable followers to purchase things they don’t really need, to feel familiarity with someone they admire. As digital capital continues to increase these insincere strategies appear to be advantageous, with the unlikelihood of their cessation one must become conscious of social media’s ever-present skulduggery.
The Internet is the greatest innovation of the past century but in the community it’s depredating legitimacy, staged images not portraying life as it is but as someone would like it to appear. We need to be increasingly cognizant of social media’s influence on our perception of reality, encouraging ourselves to question the purpose and sincerity of posts online. Avoiding overindulgent use helps alter attention away from these trivialities and suppresses the craving for external approval; used wisely these tools can be indispensable for personal development and community growth, irresponsibly it can beguile people into digital servitude, depreciating their connection with tangible reality.
Image source: Gerhard Hadherer