Social media is changing the way we communicate and the way we are perceived, both positively and negatively. Every time you post a photo, or update your status, you are contributing to your own digital footprint and personal brand.
– Amy Jo Martin
‘Social Media’ refers to “forms of electronic communication… through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content” (Mirriam-Webster 2018). Whether it be tagging friends in Facebook memes, re-tweeting an inspirational quote, posting aesthetic photos of your lunch on Instagram, or uploading extensive Snapchat stories of your night out, social media is deeply-rooted in many of our interpersonal communications. So much so, that for many, social media posts are considered to generally depict real life. In fact, Compare the Market reports that Australian youth views social media as “an extension to their social lives, with no distinct line between real and online life” (Comparethemarket.com.au. 2018).
However, to me, our social media pages are a constructed reality, rather than a representation of our real lives. We construct a version of ourselves, and only allow certain people to see certain sides of this self, to varied degrees, on certain platforms. A notion which becomes interesting in the case of @lilmequela, an Instagram influencer who is hugely successful – but isn’t even human. Thus, questioning the authenticity of our social media.
Distinctions between the online and real world seem clear cut, but, they are increasingly collapsing.
An obvious example of this are the real-world consequences of online behaviour. No data is truly private, and the internet is forever. So, whatever we put out into the online world can ultimately come back to haunt us. Another example, is our tendency to construct our lives as ‘picture perfect‘ on social media. Social media brings the issue of an obsession with an unattainable perfection beyond our appearance and into our daily lifestyles. Because so many of these representations of real life are highly edited, heavily constructed content marketings of a person or brand, they cannot be realistically attained.
So, to explore the authenticity of my own social media, I conducted a digital-ethnographic study on myself. For 24 hours, I captured moments of my real life (through photos and screenshots) and then compared them to the photos that I post on my Instagram page. Interestingly, the result was a more ‘real’ but still ultimately constructed perspective of my life. But, it made me consider how carefully curated my Instagram feed is. Without realising it, I had developed a set of ‘rules’ which I abide by to promote a consistent ‘me’ to my followers. These ‘rules’ are as follows:
- All photos must have a white boarder.
- All photos must be edited for optimum lighting and coloration.
- Most photos must be taken of me, not photos I have taken of myself.
- Photos must be aesthetically intriguing, or depict some fun/joyful activity.
- Makeup is not essential, but is preferred.
- Sensitive content shall reside only in my ‘private’ account.
How authentic is your online fake? Comment below.
BrainyQuote. (2018). Amy Jo Martin Quotes. [online] Available at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/amy_jo_martin_529757?src=t_social_media [Accessed 25 Aug. 2018].
Comparethemarket.com.au. (2018). [online] Available at: https://www.comparethemarket.com.au/blog/health/social-media-young-aussies/ [Accessed 25 Aug. 2018].
Djsresearch.co.uk. (2018). Digital Ethnography. [online] Available at: https://www.djsresearch.co.uk/glossary/item/Digital-Ethnography [Accessed 23 Aug. 2018].
Moore, C. (2018). ‘Digital Ethnography’ Prezi Slides, BCM241, University of Wollongong, delivered 23 Aug. 2018.
Social Media. (2018). In: Mirriam-Webster. [online] Available at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/social%20media [Accessed 25 Aug. 2018].