WHO ARE YOU? Exploring Online Personas

Who am I? It’s the question we ask ourselves almost everyday. However, most of us fail to identify the differences between our real-life personas and our online personas. Our real-life personas tend to present ourselves as we truly are, whereas our online personas tend to be a more consciously fabricated version of ourselves, or more specifically, the person we want to be. However, another question that can be asked is whether our online personas can affect our real-life personas?

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As I write this post, almost everybody around me is either on their laptops, smart phones or tablets.  With this in mind, it wouldn’t be inaccurate to assume that about half of those people have a social media tab open, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or Instagram. This is the world we live in and as technology continues to develop, our online-personas slowly begin to cast a shadow on our real-personas. Frightening, isn’t it?

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This is Max, logging out.

Note: I would highly recommend watching the episode of Black Mirror titled ‘Nosedive’, which really examines this concept in depth.

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DIGC202- Walled Garden

Remember the frustrating moment when you were in high school, when you would come across the blocked site page when trying to access sites such as YouTube or Facebook? Yeah, me too. It was everyone’s pet peeve. Talk about first-world problems.  This is what is often referred to as the walled garden, where certain areas of the internet were restricted by a particular internet service provider, such as the infamous DET portal.

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Facebook also has its own form of wall garden, in that it monitors all information and data uploaded on the platform, and will remove and censor any “dangerous” or “inappropriate” information that is uploaded. Whether we like it or not, within these “walled gardens” we are always being watched.

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How do I look: Selfies and the Quantified Self

As I sit on a packed train heading towards the city, I notice three girls sitting across from me. Whilst I type this, they are adjusting their appearance, using their camera as a mirror. In the age of social media, this could only mean one thing: they were going to take a selfie.  In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past five years, a selfie is essentially a digital self-portrait taken by a smart-phone. Selfies have emerged in the wake of the social media age, which has changed the way we communicate with others, for better or for worse.

One of the major issues concerning the ‘selfie’ phenomenon is that of narcissism and the obsessive search for reverence from others.  In fact, the emergence of the media platforms ‘Snapchat’ and ‘Instagram’ have arguably elevated this problem to a higher level and has only intensified the most concerning issue of body image, which I will discuss later. Living in the age of social media, it is indisputable that narcissistic behaviour has spiked. The idea of “updating your status” or “tweeting” are narcissistic in principal.  However, the rise of selfies  have arguably taken narcissism to a new level.  Eric B. Weiser states that “selfies seem inherently to contain the most explicit elements of ostentation and self-propagation” (2015, pg. 477). Instagram, with features  such as hashtags, likes and followers is arguably much more susceptible to narcissism. Because of those fore-mentioned features, people become so obsessed with how many “likes” they get, that their posts are determined by what they think others will like, rather than what they themselves find to be interesting. The obsession for “likes” also leads to, particularly with females, someone exposing a little too much of themselves, which leads me to my second point: body image.

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Body image, particularly for females, has been an issue long before the ‘selfie culture’. However, there is no denying that the anxieties about how we individually perceive our bodies has heightened significantly in the age of the selfie. Helen Briggs says that “the more women are exposed to “selfies” and other photos on social media, the more they compare themselves negatively” (2014).  However, Pamela B. Rutledge believes that they are “a by-product technology-enabled self-exploration” (2013).  Both of these arguments have equal amounts of truth in them. The argument, in regards to body image, can swing both ways, as selfies can both cause anxieties about how we see ourselves compared to others but can also instigate positive change to improve our self-esteem. As a pessimistic person, I am more akin to Brigg’s argument that selfies are harmful to the way we see ourselves, particularly for females. That being said, I do enjoy taking the occasional selfie and do have a Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook account. So in a sense, I am part of the problem. Whether selfies are a real problem, however, is another question.

References

Briggs, H 2014, ‘ ‘Selfie’ body image warning issued’, BBC News, 10th April, viewed 25th March 2016,  <http: http://www.bbc.com/news/health-26952394&gt;  

Rutledge B., P 2013, ‘ #Selfies: Narcissism or Self-Exploration?’, Psychology Today, 18th April, viewed 25th March 2016, <http: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/positively-media/201304/selfies-narcissism-or-self-exploration&gt;

Weiser, EB 2015, ‘#Me: Narcissism and its facets as predictors of selfie-posting frequency’, Personality and Individual Differences, vol. 86, pp. 477-481. Available from: 10.1016/j.paid.2015.07.007. [26 March 2016].

 

Part 2: Unfriended: The Spatial aspect of social media and its users

When we discuss the idea of ‘thinking spatially about media audience courses’, this can refer to many different aspects of the media. Today, on Halloween night, I have decided to, as part of my 4 part digital project, to take a look at the 2015 cyber-horror film “Unfriended” and discuss how the spatial aspect of social media is represented within the film, as well as a general review of the film.

Image from: http://www.contactmusic.com/images/feature-images/unfriended-poster-636-380.jpg
Image from: http://www.contactmusic.com/images/feature-images/unfriended-poster-636-380.jpg

Out of all the films that have explored the anxieties and spatial aspects of social media, no film has done it better than Levan Gabriadze’s 2015 techno-horror film “Unfriended”.  Set entirely on the main character (Blair)’s computer screen, “Unfriended” delivers both as a straightforward and  entertaining horror film, but also as a commentary on the spatial aspect of social media. One interesting fact about the film is that the film, was shot all in one house, with each character occupying a separate room . Interestingly, this is completely relevant to the idea that the film attempts to convey (that idea being that although isolating us in reality, social media brings us closer virtually, regardless of where we are located.)

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This idea, that is explored in “Unfriended”, is really quite fascinating, but can also be seen as problematic. Living  in a world of technological change, it’s not a surprise that we are beginning to become consumed by our mobile phones, laptops and tablets. However, being a teenager myself, it is becoming slightly worrying  to see people, particularly teenagers, become increasingly glued to their screens, even in the company of friends and family. I, myself, am guilty of being one of these people. So, the question I intend on investigating is this: why do we feel the need to use social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, whilst in the company of others?  Runcan ( pg.127, 2015) states  that “the young generation [generation Z] belongs to a new type of social networks based on virtual communication”. An underlying problem, established in Runcan’s statement, is that of place. Because technology allows to access everything a lot faster, it therefore allows us to communicate faster. This increase in speed has therefore made us less patient and more demanding.

The invention of Skype, which is the social-media format used throughout “Unfriended”, is arguably much more significant than that of Facebook. Before I continue, I would like to point out that I am on Facebook almost every day and think it is a marvellous tool and use it much more than Skype.  On its website, Skype describes its purpose as “doing things together, whenever you’re apart”. In all honesty, this is the perfect summary of Skype. The major difference between Skype and Facebook is that Skype is used in a much-more positive manner. People are not constantly checking their Skype and when used, it is often to talk with someone who is too far to talk to face-to-face. Contrastingly,  Facebook is used constantly to remind others about how we are feeling, what’re doing, who we are doing something with and where we are at a certain moment. With this sort of use, it’s no wonder that we are becoming increasingly self-centred and narcissistic. Whilst debating whether virtual reality is a type of media space, Runcan (2015) argues that defining the concept of virtual reality is essential in order to assess whether it is a type of media space. However, Runcan (pg.129, 2015) goes on to state that “the difficulty comes from the fact that this space does not exist physically”. The fact that virtual reality is not a physical space remains a significant obstacle in questioning whether it can be considered as more than just a network.

My final point, in this admittedly over-long post, is regarding Runcan’s (2015) discussion  of “Facebookmania” as a concept. Runcan (pg.129, 2015) relates the term to “a state of uncontrollable nervousness manifested through agitation and, sometimes, aggressiveness because the need needs to be satisfied without any delay”. Being a 19 year-old, you won’t be surprised to hear that I, along with many others, suffer from Facebookmania. So, in response to the question I asked myself earlier, I believe that Facebookmania is a form of addiction which is often neglected and is prominent in the lives of many people, particularly teenagers, today. The principal issue that we face, with this addiction, is that it draws us from a real, if geographically-limited place to a unregulated and sometimes dangerous virtual place. And if the horror film “Unfriended” warns us about anything, it’s this: addiction to technology can be dangerous…

References:

Runcan, R 2015, ‘Facebookmania – The Psychical Addiction to Facebook and Its Incidence on the Z Generation’, Social Work Review / Revista de Asistenta Sociala, vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 127-136.

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