Social Media and Self Image

People have mentioned to me that the blog is not writing much lately. Well the truth is, Ive been busy; busy with my messy life that frequently seems to involve more than one person should have to deal with. And when I look around at my contemporaries I see they are pretty much the same. They are leading their own frantic lives, trying to keep their heads above water, just. And I am lucky, because the people I know dont tend towards this insidious tendency: to make out that their lives are some sugar-coated, pink and fluffy version of how things are. They pretty much tell it like it is and I am grateful for that, because I value it.

But that is not the norm these days I know. The norm seems to be all about promoting our self image, in the manner of a celebrity but without a PR such as Max Clifford. Now we write our own headlines. Perhaps we will enjoy the moment more, feel the emotion more deeply if we share it widely with the hundreds of ‘friends’ online – post a picture, concoct a line. Some may say, well that is the pot calling the kettle black – you lay yourself bare on the blog. And maybe that is correct, but I like to think that if I sit down and write something and share it, it is something I have thought through in more than a minute. It is something I have reflected on and want to contribute and share. I hope it is not merely a I am scratching my arse status. And I am not dissing Facebook or Twitter. They have their place and I use them. Sometimes I like them. But what I do not like is the element of self promotion, when the only product to promote is oneself and oneselfs doings. I like sharing. I like sharing links and photos and thoughts, but I dont need to know what someone had for tea last night. I just dont.

The communal non-fiction, that transmute into collective fictions of our daily lives, that we compulsively Tweet and Facebook has become claustrophobic at best and oppressive at worst. Look, look, look at me the status updates cry. My life is cool. My life is photogenic. My life is at least as good (if not better…) than yours.

The best real-life, person to person advice I had last week was: Dont panic and carry on. I might have preferred the reverse: Panic and dont carry on, but where would that get me? It would make a Tweetier Tweet though, one that might cause a ripple of concern in the online sorority.

But whilst I am trying to work out what I object to (and the truth is Im still not sure) I will temporarily conclude with this.

Social Media Objection #1 Are these sites largely platforms for self-announcement? And are they becoming increasingly competitive, showy, and brash; a bit like online Keeping Up with the Joneses? Whilst everything has its place, lets not reduce the richness of life to what can be shared in a few lines on a social networking site.

The Twitter Fail Whale

*puts on tin hat*
*retreats to shed*

Posted on April 4, 2011, in Be not idle, Consumerism and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Why shouldn’t one promote oneself? What’s wrong with shouting about being happy? It is only you who compares it to yourself – the original poster isn’t doing it to upset anyone. I think it all comes down to how one engages with social media.

    I use it to tell the world what I’m up to. To shout about it sometimes, whether it’s good stuff, or whether it’s bad stuff – it’s become part of my routine. And if life’s good and I want to promote myself then I will, and if life’s shit and I want people to know then I will also shout about that.

    I for one am not going to apologise for that. I think the question lies with the response and objection that you choose to have to what people use it for.

    I was once given a very sage piece of advice: you have to think about yourself and be out for yourself, because no one else is. And I don’t see why in the hell that’s a problem, and if social media’s become the outlet for that then I see no issue whatsoever. It’s all part of the evolution of people not being afraid to talk about, accept and embrace their emotions.

  2. A question for you: is having a blog self promotion?

  3. I did mention pots and kettles in relation to the blog.

    I am asking a valid question I think and I wonder if social media puts a barrier between oneself and ones emotions, but I am not attacking the use of it. I am wondering if they substitute for something else or are a useful addition to the human expression of feeling. There is no doubt they aid communication, but have they reduced the quality?

    I dont have answers, just endless questions!

  4. I think they are a useful addition to the human expression of feeling, and actually remove some of the barriers of self- and social-consciousness.

    I think it is an interesting debate; what I find more interesting is your aversion to self promotion. Or is it just blatant self promotion? Either way, I think it says more about individuals who don’t like social media phenomena than those who do.

  5. I am exploring the promotion of a self image – not a self. I think there is a difference. Underneath we might all feel the same way about most things, but overtly (and social media allows us to do this even better than the garden fence) we may wish to discuss and display facets of our lives that are more interesting and palatable for the consumption of others.

    So we are not necessarily offering our own deep selves up, we are putting up the best, edited bits. Sometimes. Not always.

    So I go on Facebook and plenty of it is of interest and amusement and entertainment and keeping up with folk. And some of it is not (and those are the posts that I prefer not to bother with and I dont have to after all)

    Tomorrows post is entitled ‘Self Image and Social Media’ because we had them before Facebook started, its just that now we have multiple platforms for to sing and dance on and my question is Does this Affect our Inner Selves in any way at all and if it does – how?

    Its not necessarily bad; it just is.

  6. there are loads of blogs about ‘perfect lives’ and I find them quite vacuous: it’s not like they are selling a product we must have:
    flipside ~ self absorbed gloom and negativity?
    I think perhaps, we are aiming for careful self promotion:
    there are things I certainly wouldn’t write on facebook as my daughter and family can read it!
    twitter on the other hand, is my tourettes:

  7. I should follow you then.

    I am not attacking the use of these things – I am trying (clumsily perhaps, but here is where I think things through collaboratively) to work out the impact of a collective phenomemon on our cultural psyches.

    Well thats what I think I am doing now. God know what I was doing this morning.

    No offence intended to individuals: I just made todays foray onto FB – I read Twitter compusively!

  8. no offence taken by me!
    love reading your blog and the refreshingly honest way you view your life: {your in italics for emphasis}
    I think you’ve hit on something but it isn’t anything new:
    we’re all guilty of putting on a ‘face’ for the world ~ only revealing the edited highlights {or lowlights} and todays arena includes this place called t’interweb!

  9. I think that is true: its not new. What is new is the reach of the internet and if I chose to share something before the digital age it remained in the street, or perhaps the next. Now it spreads far and wide and many of us can join in. So we are, in some ways, not just bombarded with brands to buy (and the attendant aspirations their manufacturers like to link in our minds) but also a collective image of others lives and being as we are, we cannot help but measure ourselves against something which I think is a bit mythical, but very pervasive.

    And as parent whose children dont yet FB but doubtless will, I wonder what is it I should preparing them for in this very exciting and dynamic digital world. I hope they are developing a strong sense of self anyway, but I think these media can test this in people and perhaps kids are especially vulnerable.

    All of this is thunk out as I go along…

  10. Welcome back! My ‘friend’ best summed up facebook when she left saying why would I want to keep up with ex work colleagues and school buddies that I never kept up with when I was at work school!

    I hate it but I’ve a very nice farm I tend! 😉

    I’ll share one of my last wall posts that I think my be of relevance.

    To the cloud? I wish you’d go to a fucking cloud, fall off it, land on your family and crush them whilst killing yourself!! That is all!

    Add me and I’ll poke you! 😛

  11. I hear that argument against FB a lot. But for me it’s useful, and for friends in similar circumstances it’s useful. I think that is the bog standard reaction to FB from people in a certain situation.

    I live nowhere near where I grew up. I liked the people I was friends with when I lived there, and I enjoy now being back in contact with them.

    I went to boarding school, where people came from all over the country and world – I enjoy being in touch with some of those people again. I made friends with them, didn’t fall out with them, and I like having them back in my life. Many friendships have been rekindled for me, which I’m absolutely delighted about and thrilled that those people are back in my life.

    I then did seasonal work for 6 years, and encountered many people from many walks of life, and from all over the world. I didn’t fall out with any of them, and enjoy hearing about what they’re up to and who they are now.

    I then lived in London, where I developed a wide social circle and friendships that I cherished and enabled me to confidently become who I am today and facilitate the life I lead today (and am not afraid to declare that I like).

    I then left London. I didn’t fall out with all of those people, and I enjoy still being in touch with them, being able to arrange meet ups and parties when I’m back in London, and generally just keeping in touch. It’s quicker and easier than email, and keeps me connected from my office at home where I work all day, every day, on my own.

    That is why I like Facebook – because I have many friends all over the world from many walks of life, and I like to hear what they’re up to, and they like to hear what I’m up to. For me it’s about keeping in touch and communicating in a pithy and collective way – if you don’t want that, don’t have friends you have lost touch with, or live in the same place you grew up I can see how FB is less worthwhile. For me, it’s a lifeline, it’s part of my daily routine, and it enables me to keep in touch with people I otherwise wouldn’t have in my life because we’re all too damn busy.

    What does it come down to? I like my friends, and I like keeping in touch.

  12. FB can serve more than one purpose – Ive no problem with your purpose; but as a fairly anti-social old bag I wouldnt use it for that reason to the same extent. It is a perfectly valid purpose though.

    I am interested in exploring the collective construction of self image in our culture. Social Media plays a role in that and I am thinking it through. I am returning to this later hopefully!

    My own personal bias, and where I leapt off from, was that there are people who sometimes use it to say how wonderful everything is: thats the bit I dont buy into.

    Other people also use it to say how awful everything is. So if I bob by occasionally and get the status mix of: how great/how crap do they cancel each other out to a neutral state, or do they trigger a response in me that has a result…

    I dont know, its another of my questions!

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