Image courtesy of mkhmarketing via FlickrImagine you’re at a party, huddled together in an inconspicuous corner with some friends. A quick fire round of jokes and anecdotes is the topic of the night. You’ve lined up a stomper of a story, a personal narrative of something that ties in so seamlessly and brilliantly with what you’ve all been discussing. Your confidence is high and the objective of your anecdote so clear that you’re pretty sure that it’s the best story any of your friends are going to hear that night. Just as you’ve wet your tongue, your opening in the conversation in sight, an acquaintance verging on stranger, possibly a friend of a friend, nudges you aside, spilling some of their pint on your sleeve and hijacks the conversation. Loud and brash, they slowly push whatever high regard you had for your anecdote into inconsequentiality. Their story appears better, sounds more appealing and elicits a twinge of jealousy in you, yet it garners enthused smiles and justifying nods from its audience. Sound familiar?By definition, a social network is quite simply a network of social interactions and personal relationships. In our day and age, a Facebook, Twitter and Instagram account comprise the triad upon which we base our everyday communication and interaction with others. Logging in is an impulse, an insatiable thirst we’ve developed to update others on our whereabouts and to silently view the lifestyle of others, praising or disregarding whatever they’ve chosen to share on this unflinchingly public domain. Yet, where in the past decade or so, have those innocent interactions turned into competitive updates, and personal relationships a superficial façade? Worst still, why have these networks become an arena of showmanship and a waste bin of ‘friends’?I have a real problem with social media. It’s an intrusive obligation, and the unsaid courtesy that goes along with it leaves me gritting my teeth more times than not every time I clamber online. It’s an obscured window into the meticulously manipulated lives of others, an impression of what people desperately really want you to see. Fail to participate in it’s overall superficiality and you feel isolated, somewhat dejected. Participate and what do you get in return? A flash release of endorphin maybe; a transient high like eating a sugary sweet, and then the need for more, always more. More justification and more need for ‘likes’, glorious, glorious ‘likes’. However, there’s a new shade of social media that really gets under my skin, something I like to refer to as Social Media Superiority.
Why have these networks become an arena of showmanship and a waste bin of ‘friends’?
There are many different types of people in this world, like there are many different types of social media users. There’s the projectile over-sharer, depositing their entire camera roll and emotional back catalogue onto your newsfeed, more often than not met by your scrolling, rolling eyes. There’s the quiet observant type, silently seeing all but saying very little; perhaps a whispering comment here and there just reminding you that their profile still kicks. Next are the school friends who have never left the small town they now despise, the woo-girl Saturday night-ers and the piss-pulling lad group, jumping at every chance to humiliate one of their own. Mingled amongst this myriad of personalities is probably the one person you message each and everyday, or a long distance friend, the platform of social media being your mutual means of communication. Yet amongst these is one stand out character, a persona quite like no other we’ve come across before.Over the past few months I’ve started to notice this character more online. Perhaps they’ve always been there and I’m just a little naïve. Perhaps my low days heighten their behavior while my good days somewhat overshadow their updates. Or perhaps it is just the competitive world we’re all enclosed within, whereby every opportunity is one to showcase how much better you are than the next person. Where every Facebook update or Tweet or Instagram picture is another chance to show your peers how in control and fantastic your life appears to be. The snapshot world of social media has somewhat created a behavior in some that manifests itself in a strange cocktail of insecurity, narcissism and the incessant need to have their every move justified. It takes a less then quiet update to keep themselves above the next person, a form of superiority hierarchy. These personas photograph their toned bodies in mirrors explaining their morning routine of yoga/running/kettle belling/helping old ladies cross the road, they pen themselves as newly educated fitness aficionados, they feel the need to disclose another ridiculous way to bring avocado into every meal, and truthfully are generally all round sickeners.
Modesty has long disappeared on social media and in its place stands a mutated idea of what we think we must do to succeed in today’s world.
Some people have somehow created a career out of this behavior and this is what is the most frightening. The public display of their own self-centered attention is by some means allowing them to carve out a name for themselves. Yet the message they’re sending is completely and utterly misconstrued. Photographing your partially clothed body to advocate how proud you are of the fitness progress your making lacks sincerity and perhaps the right message to those viewing your updates. I look at those on social media and wonder what must go through their mind as they pose and edit images of themselves. There’s nothing as lonely as a selfie, but a mirror shot of your body comes quite close. These people post about their early morning runs, their healthy balanced lifestyle and the ongoing highs in their life. While you may have personally achieved something great during your own day, one look at these updates and you immediately diminish said achievement. Their superficial sheen of triumph subconsciously tarnishes the confidence in your own self. Should you do as they do and have your every move justified? Should you start getting up at 6am just to nab that sunrise moment in order to show it off? Modesty has long disappeared on social media and in its place stands a mutated idea of what we think we must do to succeed in today’s world. Social Media Superiority is a cruel mistress and if you’re not careful you may begin to compare your own self to her one-dimensional façade. These personas outrage me but I can only say to them, as Yeats once said “Tread softly because you tread on my dreams”. Upload softly, please, because your making me feel bad about myself.