Sitting amongst my friends, no one is speaking. We are all laughing inwards to ourselves or holding an inquisitive look on our faces. We’re all engrossed in our phones. We’re Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or Snapchat, but are our virtual lives more exciting?
By Gabrielle Kynoch
It wasn’t until university that I realised how important social media is; I used it in uni to connect to my home friends, read up on world news and promote my work. I didn’t see a negative side until I saw the obsession of social media through some of my friends. I saw them go through the glee of finding “great lighting” or the struggle of losing followers, I found the same obsessive need to continuously retake photos until it was perfect, feeding my ego.
The “Nosedive” Episode of Black Mirror illustrates in a bleak manner the dangerous path obsessive social media use could lead to. Whether it’s surviving on likes and followers like its your nutrients or deciding to cut less popular users from your life, it’s clear to see that this amazing connectivity tool, can be damaging to those who take it too seriously.
However, its not all doom and gloom. Being able to evade the trappings of becoming infatuated with your online self opens a world where many can express freedom, come out of the closet, find a community and finally feel like they’re not alone.
For some social media is all about your perfect self, the person you wish to be. A good thing about social media is it is accessible and it gives us the freedom to say and show themselves as they want. Under the lens of feminism, women can discuss what’s empowering to them and this has seeped into the glass ceilings of brands and advertising firms to show us a truer reflection of what womanhood looks like; all shapes and all colours. In her book, The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf powerfully comments on the social construct of the male gaze, ‘women are kept mere “beauties” in men’s culture so that culture can be kept male’. Wolf discusses how women were given obsessions in the early to mid-20th Century, to preoccupy their minds with menial tasks such as housework or maintaining youth, all to please their husbands.
However, it could be too simple to blame the husband of the fifties housewife for endorsing the housewife stereotype to appear powerful in front of his friends or accomplished in front of society and as Wolf identifies it has been the media who enforce these “beauty myths” onto women.
Magazines have been dictating how women should look and behave to satisfy advertising agencies, whilst acting as an authority on beauty. Wolf criticised the way the media used women’s insecurities to create profit whether it was damaging on their mental and physical health or not.
Today, women and men can display a self that is true to their identity, whether they’re celebrating their curves in sexy images for Instagram or sharing pictures of their non-gender conforming style on Tumblr. An open discussion leads to a wider view on the world; what’s empowering to one might not be to another, through social media we can see how the other half lives.
Young people have developed a confidence online which has the potential to grow into narcissism, yet is that necessarily a bad thing? Women have consistently been told how to act and that they should personify what men look for in a partner. Could it be that, perhaps, it’s now the women’s turn to say what they want in a partner and to be able to celebrate their good looks? If it’s boosting confidence and doesn’t have negative effects on the woman or on her voyeurs, feeling confident is essentially the best way to develop a positive identity.
As T. Chamorro-Premuzic, summed up it is “Needless to say, most social media users are not narcissistic. Yet, social media is to narcissists what crack is to crack addicts: the more narcissistic you are, the heavier your social media use is” (The Guardian).
To avoid social media seems near impossible, however to know what’s real and what’s not, what’s important and what isn’t is the key to manipulating social media for your benefits rather than letting it control you. Moderation is key to an online identity, knowing it’s not the be-all-and-end-all is key to realising a balance between feeding the ego and knowing when there’s a life to also be had, further than the screen. The moment when it becomes validation for existence is when narcissism sets in.