Having an online presence is part of the popularity package and is perhaps considered mandatory in today’s time. As a social scientist, however, I cannot help observe those who use it for purposes other than keeping in touch with their networks and peers. Undoubtedly, there are numerous benefits of social media, however, often misused.
The availability of social media options ranging from Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat to Instagram has provided immense opportunity to users wishing to create a digital identity. Whilst many having accounts on all; the story nonetheless, does not end here. We are bombarded with information constantly in this age of digital revolution. This has simultaneously increased our prospects to expose ourselves to the environment and to exhibit information regarding ourselves for other people’s viewership and validation. Feeling the need to objectify your behaviour, tasks, surroundings and bodies means that other people’s opinions matter even if you choose to ignore or pretend not to care.
Much time is spent on perfecting the artfully angled photos of self or surroundings, short movie skits by people or quirky captions trying to ironically emphasise upon the philosophy of life and the series of emojis carefully placed to attract as many comments/likes possible. Human behaviour has always been interesting to analyse in order to make sense of individuals’ relationship with society and vice versa. Digitalisation is a big part of our lives; we benefit from it and in some ways it benefits from us too. This is by no means trying to generalise behaviour upon all internet users, but to point out a vast majority who do end up succumbing to constantly posting and showcasing their life online. So, what prompts this?
Perhaps, the answer lies in the theory by psychologists Wilcox and Stephen, that people want to present a socially desirable and positive self-view. This in return boosts their self-esteem and confidence, yet masks their true personalities, feeding into the need to be admired. It must be remembered though that these superficial platforms are far from reality and end up doing more harm than good. Symptoms seen can cause severe psychological complications which work in the same way as intoxication through drug addiction.
Furthermore, narcissism, vanity and self-centered behaviour appear to have become the guiding norms that govern our society having the potential to have profound psychosocial impact. Sharing your life with other online users encourages a pursuit of approval which creates a false sense of self and esteem booster. This is why people spend so much time online. The fact that everyone can achieve fame by getting the right look by omitting what they want and displaying a made-up reinvented self, has turned everyone into a celebrity displaying only their positive side rather than the full picture of who we actually are.
Yet, the negative implications are paramount and range from physical to personal to social spheres. Obsessing over one’s own self online has given rise to medical problems with neck pains, eyestrain, sleeplessness and serious mental health issues which in some cases lead to suicide.
The issue is also not limited to one particular gender, but equally affects both men and women. Sadly, recording an experience has become more important than the actual experience itself, putting viewers in doubt of whether the ‘lives’ being showcased are as good as the look produced for public consumption. It is high time we realise the repercussions of such behaviour. The detrimental impact that comes with a constant presence online may cause us to lose touch with the actual world and have crippling consequences for future generations. It is time we reflect upon the importance of living in the reality with real relationships, human interactions and selves rather than be absorbed in a virtual world before it is too late and our social and emotional development becomes severely compromised.
This article was originally published at: https://tribune.com.pk/story/2258468/the-age-of-digital-vanity
Approved By SDPI