Social Media and Personal Identity
I'm fascinated by social media and the way it has been adopted by the wider community. A multitude of people utilise in a multitude of ways for so many different reasons. Therefore, I felt that it was time again to focus and discuss the phenomenon in a blog post. I have embraced social media, especially Twitter, mainly to promote my writing. I started “tweeting” in 2010 and along the way my use of the medium has become more socially orientated. I enjoy the interactions I share with a broad and eclectic group of people immensely. However, it should be noted that my Google + page, as well as Twitter and Facebook accounts are all based around Contains Moderate Peril and not my specifically my personal life. I like to maintain a distinction between these different aspects of my life. At present, I believe I have found the right balance.
Now this raises the question of whether my online persona is genuine. How much do readers of Contains Moderate Peril, listeners of the podcast (which is on hiatus at present) and Twitter followers actually see of the "real me"? Well I think they get a measured version of myself. I keep certain aspect of life private while amplifying others. I also think that a certain amount of the "real me" inevitably permeates my writing and online presence by some process of emotional osmosis. Over the last eighteen months I have touched upon more personal aspects of my life, because they are significant aspects of my daily reality. However, I don’t share everything and there is much that I deem off limits.
Some people think this controlled flow of information via social media is somewhat cynical and contrived. Yet I think we all do it to a greater or lesser degree in the real world in our day-to-day relationships. As a species, we always strive to present the best possible representation of ourselves to others. In fact, I've noticed that some cultures are far more invested in this idea than others. In principle, there is nothing wrong with this. Speaking your mind all the time could prove problematic; hence we have social niceties and etiquette. However, if you are continuously trying to reinvent yourself for public consumption because you are inherently uncomfortable in your own skin then that is most definitely a problem.
I think age and how you feel about yourself most certainly have an impact upon how you conduct yourself on Twitter and other platforms. People naturally want to be liked and also be accepted. There is an imperative to be an individual and at the same time “normal”, which is a very nebulous concept. I prefer the broader concept of societal norms and knowing when to accommodate them. Social media as many has pointed out, liberates us from social cues and other vital aspects of communication. Then there is the old chestnut of anonymity and the lack of consequences that come with the internet. There is often scope to forget that we are dealing with another individual when using social media. I think most of us have made this mistake at some point and may have regretted what we've said or how we've treated someone.
Naturally there are counter points to all the above. As I've already stated, I have set limits and constraints on my online interactions. Others go a step further and live completely different lives online, so it is prudent not to take everything on face value. As in the real world, online friendships need to be approached with a similar degree of caution and common sense. I think it is important to focus on the positive things that social media and online friendships can achieve, such as breaking down of geographical boundaries perceived cultural differences. Although Twitter is often associated with birds of a feather flocking together and entrenched views, the complete opposite can often happen. Social media is a great way to bypass misinformation and learn about how others truly live and think. Sometimes the similarities between us speak far louder than the differences.