Who are you? But more importantly, who am I?

There were are a lot of great articles assigned to read this week and they discuss topics that are very relevant my life right now.The theme of this week is mediated identities. How do we perceive ourselves and others online? Who controls what we see on our timeline? Who are we beyond the selfies and status updates? Some articles this week discussed heavy topics like break-ups, suicide, grief and depression. I didn’t realize that in a picture perfect social media world that such things existed (insert heavy sarcasm here). The sad reality is that beyond these “picture perfect” posts many people are struggling internally.

Photo Credit: Inspiyr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Inspiyr via Compfight cc

The first article I read that really hit me hard was Split Image. The reason it hit me so hard is because I can guarantee that there are so many others out there right now that are just like Maddison Holleran. So many others that are struggling on the inside but seem perfectly happy on the outside through a social media lens. Why is there so much pressure to portray ourselves as perfect, flawless, exceptionally happy? Why do we need to pretend that we are all of those things when in reality we are not? I believe it is because there is too much pressure from the media as well as our friends and family members who are only sharing the best of the best in their life. Too many people are busy comparing their lives to others. This is nothing new. People have always compared their lives to others.  The difference in society today is that we are bombarded on a daily basis with everyone’s picture perfect posts. Even the posts that are not picture perfect have an affect on us.

The Psychology of Healthy Facebook Use provides a simple solution to avoid negative health affects such as depression when using Facebook. The solution: stop comparing yourself to others.

“Because Facebook tends to serve as an onslaught of idealized existences—babies, engagement rings, graduations, new jobs—it invites upward social comparison at a rate that can make “real life” feel like a modesty festival.”

Comparing ourselves to others leads to feel insecure and insignificant. I know that I struggle with comparing myself to others on social media. I often see other post updates about their children who are they same as mine meeting milestones that my children have yet to accomplish. Sometimes I feel as though I may be doing something wrong or failing my children. I am quick to remind myself that everyone develops at different rates. Others are not the only ones who post updates about accomplishments. I also post accomplishments, celebrations, graduations and other “picture perfect” updates. When I post things I often ask myself why am I posting this? Is is to brag? Or am I simply sharing something I am proud of with family and friends? I in no way intend to brag or make others feel bad, but how can I be sure that what I am posting won’t make someone on my news feed feel that way?

I might not have to worry about the way I make others feel when I post something because thanks to the Facebook algorithm, my friend may not even be seeing things I am posting. What I think my friends and family are seeing can be quite different than what they are actually seeing. Some of my friends may be seeing different newsfeeds from me than others. In a lot of ways I am not in full control of what my friends and family are seeing on my behalf. The algorithms created by Facebook are based on our interactions with others, our interests and likes. It is interesting to think that my Facebook experience (as well as my google/internet experience) are controlled to a certain extent by these algorithms.

I also have no control over what friends post about me. I have asked friends and friend have asked me to take down a picture on Facebook or Instagram before. The picture may or may not contain something embarrassing but it may go against the online image that we are trying to portray. Maybe it had too much “arm fat” or too many “double chins”. Maybe the lighting wasn’t right or your outfit made you look fat. Whatever the reason, if it has been posted without my permission, I might have to ask my friends to take it down. But why should I have to take it down for those reasons?

The digital footprint that is created for a baby when their parents post on their behalf was also discussed in articles this week. I found Digital Birth: Welcome to the Online World to be very interesting. It was interesting to see where Canada sat in the rankings. I fell into three of the five categories having uploaded all the pictures described. I do not have a profile for either of my children or an email address. I do like to share pictures and updates about both of my kids so that family and friends can see them grow up. However, I try to avoid excessive updates and try to avoid updating hundreds of pictures because I don’t feel like people need to know every single thing my children are doing. I also understand that not everyone cares what my kids are doing on a daily basis. If I want to update grandparents with what my children are doing on a daily basis I can make a simple phone call or text them as opposed to putting it all over Facebook for everyone else to see. This is just my opinion and other classmates such as Branelle and Krystle have given theirs as well. I agree with Krsytle that sometimes making announcements on Facebook is so much easier than having to make a bunch of phone calls.

The last article that I thought was really interesting was in regards to break-ups in our digital world. So many of us post updates and share pictures of our relationships. Most people use the relationship status as an official indicator of our status. You may have heard the expression that it isn’t official until its Facebook official. But what happens when our relationship ends and we have a profile full of pictures and memories with our significant other? I have had to experience a break up in the digital world and I did exactly what Nick Bilton did (minus the hangover and bottle of whiskey). I deleted all my pictures, posts and even my Facebook account for a while. I ‘disappeared’ feeling that all eyes were on me until I felt that I could brave the world of Facebook again.

It is interesting to read about all the different ways social media affects our lives and in ways that are somewhat out of our control. How much of our life is really authentic? Both Jillian and Carolyn offer great commentary on this topic. Why can’t we post more about our struggles and issues? I think it’s because we don’t want people to feel like we are always complaining so we focus on the times that we look our best.

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