In a world filled with ‘selfies’ and happy appearances- where do we find reality? Where do we find the ‘high crime rates’ and violence/oppression of women? How do we determine the increased demands which are placed on those posting all of the happy, perfect pictures?
Madison Holleran was a successful young athlete and student, who posted many happy pictures in her online profiles; Madison Holleran was also a student who moved away from home and was trying to balance all of the pressures of college life and athleticism, and who ultimately committed suicide.
The Newyork Times says that Holleran is not alone. With stark statistics to back up their claims, and among the increased expectations and pressures young people face, perfect profiles are cited as one of the causes. People are ‘peering’ into other peoples lives (at least the lives they choose to show) and feeling inferior, not as successful, not as happy, and nothing to explain how or why the other people are ‘happier’.
Charles Cooley’s “looking glass self” theory helps us to understand that people understand who they are and the ‘type’ of successful they are, based on what others think of them.
The way ‘others’ see ‘us’ has greatly changed now that we have social media. We have the ability to put on a facade. We can take the pictures that are ‘just right’ for the world to see. As Amy Scuka shared in her blog last week, it’s really discouraging to think that while as critically thinking adults, we see people’s SM pictures as ‘part’ of the whole picture and not necessarily reality- it can certainly appear as reality to those who may not critically consider it. Additionally, as @jstewiestewie discusses in her blog last week, we can create a ‘bubble’ of communities and the people that we follow online may work to justify our thoughts and ideals. However, I have to wonder- what happens when we surround ourselves with these ideals – and begin comparing ourselves to the ‘perfect picture’ that is socially laid out for us?
Perhaps even more disturbing (for me), is Jason Millar’s uncovering of Facebook’s manipulation of news feeds. I believed that I was seeing all of the posts my friends were making- not that an algorithm dictates what I see! To have it taken one step further, and to understand that Facebook manipulated feeds to include more positive/negative posts to determine the emotional response. What kind of effect might that have on the those who may not question the information as it is presented to them? Additionally- how do we stop perpetuating the negative stories we are privy to online?
We can bring this all back to the public/private spheres, when we consider – where is the distinction between the two spaces when we are ‘living’ our lives online more and more. What is our role in teaching this distinction? We need to make clear when we are discussing being ‘good digital citizens’ and only posting the ‘good’ pictures, that we also take time to discuss the implications of people’s appearances on SM if they are posting those ‘good’ pictures which can be very staged.
How do we help our children to read between the digital lines?