The routine of everyday life. Post, edit, delete. Re-edit, re-post, and then refresh… refresh… refresh. Whenever society experiences something we immediately inform the rest of the world via social networking. Social media platforms permit people to share everyday facts about life to the point of societal exhaustion. Web 2.0 technology and various social networking apps lead its inhabitants to believe that the sharing of our life needs some outside approval, a form of societal gratification. The obsession with the virtual world and the acceptance people crave online, seems like a bit of harmless fun, when in actuality it can affect a young person’s mental stability and development.
Day to day communication has been revolutionized by social media impacting upon the way we behave and interact with our species. The virtual landscape allows the human race to connect with each other with a level of intimacy, speed and an unparalleled scale of converse. The realm of social media is dominated by Facebook, with other popular names trailing behind such as; LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Upon visiting social networks, I feel alien, as I’m exposed to a culture that is both foreign and new yet it simply fascinates me. Whenever I explore social media I can’t but help wonder if it was made solely for narcissists and the ego-centric. Yes, social networks may enable socialisation with others. However more importantly they provide a platform for personal publicity and with this we construct our ideal identity with constant implications of ME! ME! ME! Susan Greenfield’s theory adheres to self-fixation as social networks promote toxicity and alienation “Diversity is one of the great values of new media, but it can lead to division and separation”, as Littlejohn & Foss argue in Theories of Human Communication.
My examination of social networking has lead me to believe that individuals are CERTAINLY and SOLELY interested in themselves. So much so, that millions of the world’s inhabitants log onto the virtual realm to share daily stories, photos and videos habitually in the process of self-identification, and self-gratification. More so social media, has augmented two societal phenomena under the notion of self-expression and self representation, and these are ‘selfies’ and ‘meformers’. Jean Baudrillard’s theory of ‘hyperreality’ suggests society’s inability to function without social media and with a proliferation of virtual realms other critics ascertain society’s obsession’s with virtuality and themselves. “I’ve met people my age who would gladly throw away a handful of real, tangible friendships in order to secure a certain image on social media”
‘The Selfie’ – LOOK, LOOK AT ME!
‘The Selfie’ is a self-portrait usually taken by camera phone layered all over social medias such as; Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Selfies take multiple platforms from the unflattering to the outstandingly attractive, to the strange and wild ones sectioned in between.
Selfies are most common in the bathroom variety often exploring the Anatidae (the facial construction known as the ‘Duck Face’). The selfie photographers thrive on public publicity and live for the adoration of others.
People post ‘selfies’ for a variety of reasons so it is impossible to justify a single reason why they do so. ‘The selfie’ may be taken to boost morale, to amuse oneself, to display artistic presence or to simply justify ones attractiveness. Alam from the University of Canberra suggested that ‘selfies’ exist due to a host of social factors, although self-promotion is a key element.
No matter the cause for the ‘selfie’ it stems from the individuals innate desire for social recognition so much so that they share their image with the rest of the virtual world. Smart phones have enabled a society so obsessed with the self to take high quality images in order to further gratify the ego-centric and self-obsessed, more so apps like Snapchat, and fling enable the ego-centric to and self-obsessive personalities to reach a broader audience.
Personally I am a recluse when it comes to new media and the ‘selfie’; their innate appeal is completely foreign to me. The reason I may not understand their appeal is probably because like their reason for being it is completely subjective on the individual.
“The MEFORMER” – LET’S TALK ABOUT ME! ME! ME! , Who are you again?
During 2011 Twitter publisher around 95 million tweets per calendar day. In all honesty do we have so much meaning locked up within our conscious that we just blurt it all out? Well apparently we don’t because 40% of tweets during this year where considered aimless rabble, I believe a main contributor to this is the meformer.
‘Meformers’ just as their name suggests are individuals obsessed with self-exploitation, they create chaos in the virtual realm. ‘Meformer’ was coined by a variety of researchers at the Rutgers University, who used the term to identify social media users who project their everyday sentiments electronically, and Rutgers University estimated that 80% of Twitter are ‘meformers’.
I believe people are so intrinsically self-absorbed, which justifies why they project their raw self virtually. A Harvard study exposed the feel good nature of self-disclosure, which consequently justifies the reason individuals feel the need to explore their feelings and inform the rest of the virtual world simultaneously. Researchers believe that online gratification can be associated with the pleasure trigger and the pleasure syndromes linked with money, sex and food.
Social Media: A Narcissists Dream?
The occasional ‘selfie’ doesn’t make you a narcissist – at least not automatically. Taking a self-portrait for self-preservation on the off chance your appearance is perfect, is a totally validated reason. More so if you have ever felt breath-takingly awesome for a multitude of reasons then by all means let the world know. However posting selfies too frequently or capturing your meal for the sake of filling the word count is another story.
Other people hold similar ideals to me regarding selfies. Researcher believe that selfies offer themselves as virtual manifestos of narcissism and the egocentric. Larry Rosen, a psychology professor from California State University suggests technology’s impact on the individual’s emotional disproportion so much so that we produce symptoms related to psychological disorders.
Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology, ascertains “a lot of other cultural forces – the Internet and parenting in particular – are still pushing in the direction of narcissism.” Jean Twenge broadcasts web 2.0 technologies and their constant encouragement for self-promotion.
Wait, before you begin to freak out, at the notion of you becoming a hollow representation of your former self bear in mind, that there is no definitive study condoning social media and its part in the increase of narcissism.
New media have transformed society and the communications network. The human race are faced with more problems and stress filled situations with the implement of virtual realms. Could it be because new media have not only solved our problems but become them, through viral addiction? “Social media is addictive precisely because it gives us something which the real world lacks: it gives us immediacy, direction a sense of clarity and value as an individual” as the writer on social media, David Amerland writes.
New media abolish borders between private and public, and work and play, they simplify the human race providing greater lifestyle efficiency; Amerland again “The web and its technologies are digital representations of everything we did before in a more private, bigger, faster and more empowering format than ever before.”
Modern day new media devices revamp the traditional means of communication as web 2.0 websites offer instantaneous correspondence without limitation, whereas traditional communication is hindered upon face to face interaction. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and many other social networking websites offer limited privacy, false identification and tainted interaction. We, the human race alienate ourselves, so much that we have no real interaction without virtual aid, and with this the human race holds no real presence with reality. “Parents text and do email at breakfast and at dinner while their children complain about not having their parents’ full attention.
But then these same children deny each other their full attention. … We remove ourselves from our grief or from our reverie and we go into our phones” writes Sherry Turkle. We, humans, have an insatiable appetite for virtuality, we use the virtual realm to empower ourselves through the promotion of positive ideologies and values linked to democracy and justice “while new technologies might be forces of further alienation and inequalities in the political sphere, they can also be empowering, democratizing and thus disalienating” writes Douglas Kellner.
The human race is in a constant state of disconnect; the more we engage in conversation through virtual entities, the more we, humans suffer disconnect – I personally experience this on a day to day basis, as virtual conversation takes over primary face-to-face interaction. “The devices meant to simplify our lives merely create new and improved complexities” writes Susan Maushart.
Facebook operations are extremely unhealthy; they affect mental stability and ultimately bring about insanity through singular seclusion and depression. Maushart again, “Online chatting, on the other hand, has been linked to symptoms of loneliness, confusion, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and addiction”. I don’t know about you, but I personally feel more sociable and capable within myself when locked within virtuality. David Amerland, “It seems perverse that we can be more social than anyone would have thought possible when we are at our most anti-social, locked away from the world and silently staring at a computer screen, but that, as psychologists will tell you is the way we operate. When we are at the maximum of our disconnect we also are ready to connect and feel the need for interaction.”
New media’s technological advancement has enabled change to occur surrounding societal regulations and communication challenging the information paradox. I dare say that the human races intelligence is in a steady decline; Maushart’s theory adheres to my presumption of the decline of intellect; “The information paradox-that the more data we have, the stupider we become- has a social corollary, too: that the more frantically we connect, one to another, the more disconnected our relationships become”.
Sherry Turkle said during a Ted Talks that; “A 50-year-old business man lamented to me that he feels he doesn’t have colleagues anymore at work. When he goes to work, he doesn’t stop by to talk to anybody, he doesn’t call. And he says he doesn’t want to interrupt his colleagues because, he says, they’re too busy on their email.” But then he stops himself and he says, “You know, I’m not telling you the truth. I’m the one who doesn’t want to be interrupted. I think I should want to, but actually I’d rather just do things on my Blackberry.” Society doesn’t want to function without a virtual gateway simply because reality is too plain and boring for the digital era. Mine, yours, your neighbours, their neighbours and so on have had their spiritual and ideological perceptions changed with the advancement of technology. A final word here comes from Zizi Papacharissi, Professor of Communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago, “The internet may actually enhance the public sphere, but it does so in a way that is not comparable to our past experiences of public discourse” .