Ever in ways that may not seem abnormal

Ever since I first discovered social media in middle school, I began to sense a so called “hype” for instagram famous users and profiles, but whenever these people are seen in person, they seem to be living a completely different life than what their accounts show. So, why are social media profiles so determined to give off a specific appearance, why do we care so much about our social identities, and why is it relevant in modern society. For this research paper, I plan to delve deeper into certain social media profiles. More specifically, I intend to discuss why  people have different personas based on their Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc. I will be arguing why people believe they feel like their social media accounts have to have a certain appearance or aesthetic and why someone’s instagram “identity” is so important to them. People’s online and offline personalities differ in ways that may not seem abnormal to the typical instagram and facebook users, but usually when people post on their social accounts, they want to show the best side of themselves. Facebook tagging is an example that tends to start a lot of arguments and leads to people getting in trouble. People do not always want their friends to tag them in those “caught off guard” pictures, or photos that were taken when they maybe had a little too much to drink at the office Christmas party. I believe that people feel the need to come off as a certain person on their social media accounts in order to gain a higher following in regard to social status, reputation, and popularity. I will be discussing in my research why social media users are generally so specific as to what is posted on their social media, and why they feel the need to appeal to their followers.Societal status in modern day started out as being what social class your family belonged to. Now, however, status has developed into the amount of followers and likes on a photo a profile receives. This being said, there has been a trend in teenagers and young adults on social media accounts where they feel the need to somewhat alter themselves in a way that improves their profile in one way or another, and makes their lives seem more exciting. We consider our profiles to be presentations of who we are, but sometimes we want our profiles to give off a different part of ourselves that we are sometimes either too embarrassed to portray offline, or we give ourselves a completely different persona. One thing that almost every modern teenager and young adult looks for in life is inclusion. Whether it be in a social group or society itself, inclusion is a part of existence that people strive to find. Those who feel like they cannot find this inclusion look to social media as somewhat of a window into society so they are able to find their own niche. In an article by Michael D. Slater, “Reinforcing Spirals: The Mutual Influence of Media Selectivity and Media Effects and Their Impact on Individual Behavior and Social Identity,” the author states:”The attitudinal or behavioral outcomes of media use can be expected to influence selection of and attention to media content. This process can be conceptualized in terms of mutually reinforcing spirals akin to positive feedback loops in general systems theory. This reinforcing spirals perspective highlights the need for longitudinal modeling of mutually influencing media selection and effects processes; study of the impact of such processes in youth and adolescent identity development;… This perspective may also, more speculatively, be extended to address the maintenance of social identity for political, religious, and lifestyle groups.”With this being said, the author is expressing that people’s attitudes and perspectives of the media through social profiles can influence a user’s identity. Also, individuals are able to find their own group through social media where they fit in. Once an individual finds their group and they have become accepted, they no longer feel the need to be someone else. Their social media accounts then become the person that they truly are more comfortable being, and their social status has improved in a way where they have benefitted. Even though the user has gained acceptance into society, they still had to alter themselves to do so. I believe that this is still a negative effect of the way people change for social media gains because it also affects the person’s reputation. Individuals change and alter themselves on social media for popularity, reputation, relationships, and in extreme cases, to become “famous” through their media following. With the new Instagram update, a user’s feed shows the pictures with the most amount of “likes” and “comments” first. Because of this, it is incredibly difficult for those with lower amounts of followers to pull attention when they post a new photo; if they do not have more followers than those already posting, their picture will be swept up under all the other pictures that have a higher following. So, those who do not have larger amounts of followers feel like they are left behind, and therefore, feel the need to change their profiles in order to appeal to those accounts that have more friends or followers so they can receive the same acceptance of those that receive a higher number of likes on their posts. In a study by Lauren E. Sherman, she was able to discover that teens and adolescents are more likely to press the like button on posts that already have a higher “like” count. “Participants more often Liked photographs that appeared to have received many (vs. few) Likes. Popular photographs elicited greater activity in multiple brain regions, including the nucleus accumbens (NAcc), a hub of the brain’s reward circuitry.” (Sherman) A part of the brain is physically telling people with social accounts to “double-tap” other accounts because they have higher numbers than others. The study also discovered that  “when adolescents received many Likes (vs. few) on their own photographs, they showed significantly greater activation of the NAcc, lending confidence to the hypothesis that Likes motivate online behavior and continued use of social media.” So, not only do adolescents feel the need to like posts that already have massive amounts of activity, but they also receive a sense of satisfaction and confidence when they receive these likes as well. When the profiles are altered to fit a certain persona by “spicing up” their accounts, and then they get this confidence-booster from their amount of likes or views, they feel like this new person that they have become is how they need to be now. We usually tend to try and present who we are, but in all reality we are representing a made up, seemingly better, version of ourselves; the persona that we want others to see us as. It has been argued that this so called social media effect has started to create a false sense of self and self-esteem through the use of likes, followers comments, notifications, etc. For most social media users, it is a self confidence booster, which explains why so many people spend so much time on social media. It provides many account users with a fake sense of self and a higher or even inflated sense of who they really are. (Green) They have immediately found a new sense of self and they feel as if this mask they have put on is going to turn into the person they want to be in real life, but they are not aware of the consequences that come with altering their personalities, identities, etc. Though they may be unannounced to some, the consequences that come with adapting social media profiles into a person that is not your true self are great. Social media users tend to compare themselves to others at a very age which is a gateway to having low self confidence and self esteem issues. People want to appear intelligent and witty so they put hours of thought behind the perfectly witty Instagram captions and Facebook statuses, without making it look like they tried too hard. People want to come off as sexy and beautiful so they put excessive thought into their outfits, the lighting, and the scene of every photo just so they can be noticed by they cool group at school. This is a consequence that  many younger girls do not realize. When profiles compare themselves to others, they are comparing themselves to the perception of what they think the profile is. In reality, many people are presenting only their ideal selves online. Therefore, they are comparing themselves to an ideal figure, not a true representation. When users are so mindlessly consumed by social media perception they tend to lose sight of their own real attributes and thereby their  genuine self-worth, as they relentlessly scroll, click, and feel pressured to live up to nearly unattainable versions of themselves; all to shamelessly impress and all to feel shamefully complacent. But this is chipping away at inner peace, self-acceptance, and fostering yet another impossible standard for us to be beholden to. Former Instagram “famous” personality, Essena O’Neil  stated: “I just want younger girls to know this isn’t candid life, or cool, or inspirational. It’s contrived perfection made to get attention,” to prove to her followers just how fake and manufactured the social media’s of Instagrams really are.  By aligning one’s”real” self with their “ideal” self users will be faced with the reality of who they are. If they are portraying themselves as an ideal figure or with an ideal career, why not work towards those goals to achieve your ideal status? As we know, everything in life worth doing takes time, effort, energy, and persistence. As a final point, if you’re consistent and transparent in your online and offline persona, you have nothing to fear from exposure (Emily Magazine, 2013). Everything about your online persona should be reflective of your offline persona i.e. your background, experience, education, etc. Rather than focusing your attention and effort into creating an ideal online persona, use your time and effort to accomplish the goals that will align your real self with your ideal self. By doing so, you will ultimately become more fulfilled as you accomplish the goals that will lead to your path to self-actualization i.e. becoming the best you… the “real” you.

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