Our Society Of Internet Personas
When we look at our screens, what do they teach us? Does the entertainment value we gain from our devices delegate what news or topic is real and what is fake? If interest in one topic peaks or goes viral or starts trending on popular social websites, does that give the people more value, the company more value, or the topic more value? The answer is that the company gets the most value out of the process in the form of currency. The topics are no less fake and no less real for having been discussed and the people who have simply consumed possibly false or biased information can be led further from the truth which leaves them with less value than before. In many cases, the topic will indeed transform into something else that might be further from the truth than before. This is true of information and of the personas we put out into the internet. They are not real neither are they fake. They are a different persona. They don't represent our lives, but they show some of it. We can share some of our views, but all of them? No. This society of internet personas is an augmented reality that is dangerously addictive.
The Game of Telephone
When we were children we would at times gather in a circular group and one person would whisper a phrase into the person to the right of them's ear. That person would then pass the message they heard on to the next person to their right and so on in that order until everyone has heard their own version of what came from the original messenger. In the end, the last person says what they heard and the first person says what the original message was. Typically, the end result is two completely unrelated statements that give for a humorous ending. This is what happens with news, and to deem news fake is no truer than to deem it truthful. The original message was an abstract statement that was made up from the original person's mind. The only difference from the beginning to the end is who heard the message, how they interpreted it, and what they said to the next person. This is how disinformation starts and how what is real starts to change.
Our Perception Of Reality Augmented With Technology
We go through our lives with differing realities. What we see might not be what others see, and as the Telephone game delineates, we tend to communicate different base realities than others and the truth gets scrambled in our communication with one another. This is exacerbated by the invention of "social networks" that are not necessarily 'social networks' but more so entertainment networks that profit off of the advertisements and information presented to the people indulging in the stream of information shown to them. This has become such a reality that Scholarly journal author, Sáez-Mateu, states that the "identity in late postmodernity is forged largely in the virtual context of social networks—as understood in their broadest sense—and taking into account that those networks can survive only behind a screen". This is not a reality you can feel or touch. You can only manipulate it and play around with it as an idea on a digital screen. Let me explain: We use servers to store our ideas. We give people devices to interact with that data within a limited sandbox that wants you to stay in the sandbox for as long as possible to show you as much as it can. Is Facebook really an entity? Is Twitter really real? I argue that it is just a figment of our imagination that has technology allowing itself to propagate itself into a form of augmented reality. Just like what Sáez-Mateu states, only our screens can give these "social networks" any reality. If you were to live your whole life using just the social networks to communicate with people, your screen would become your only friend. Literally, the only thing that you could touch that would allow you to connect with other people in some manner would be your experience with the device. This is dangerous. We must be able to interact with those around us and experience their presence, their touch, their empathy, their hate, their disinterest, their curiosity, and their differing thoughts. We cannot be human if all we are, are our screens. It goes even deeper than this. We store our memories in our phones in the form of words, pictures, or video and audio, and we use these as an extension of ourselves. While the internet serves as a conduit for expressing ourselves, it cannot be ourselves in our entirety. The internet was created as a tool to maintain contact with those still alive. Now it is creating a separate reality that we are all becoming addicted to. Something we created to keep us alive is now a virus that is taking us over. The catalyst to this happening is social networks.
Look Around You
Look around you when outside. See all the people on their phones? This is not normal. Many of these people are not working, they are using this device to interact with a much more stimulating world than the one they were born into. This new world allows them to create a new persona, a new life, with more perfection. They can show their friends they made in real life their internet life and feel good. However, this isn't them. No one is as perfect as their internet persona would have you believe. No one is continuously happy, or going out and having fun. With the good times are the bad times. However, we are generally afraid to expose our bad times as we see them as insecurities rather than realities. However, look around you...what's more real?
Put Your Phone Down, Look Around, See More.
Next time you're out, try controlling your phone. I say this in the sense that phones are literally becoming addictive devices. There are teams of people working at these social networking companies that are constantly working day in and day out to make their software more addictive. They have actually made an augmented reality that essentially creates a different experience that is more stimulating much like how a drug does. You will have a more enriching life if you use your phone as a tool, not a separate reality. Social media addiction is real. Self-esteem is real. Life satisfaction is real. What is on your screen may try to communicate what your reality is, much like the telephone game, but in the end, it is more than likely not entirely representative of what is actually real. Hawi and Samaha state in their journal article "there exists a negative relationship between social media addiction and self-esteem and a mediated negative relationship between social media addiction and satisfaction with life". What is more important to you? How you see the world through this augmented reality, or how you see yourself in your actual reality? It is critical to find your true identity and this starts when you continue to think differently.
- Sáez-Mateu, F., & Payne, J. (2018). Democracy, Screens, Identity, and Social Networks: The Case of Donald Trump’s Election. American Behavioral Scientist, 62(3), 320-334.
- Hawi, N., & Samaha, M. (2017). The Relations Among Social Media Addiction, Self-Esteem, and Life Satisfaction in University Students. Social Science Computer Review, 35(5), 576-586.