Self-Portraits of Social Media

At the urging of a few friends, I’ve decided to delve into the world of Social Media for this post. As I’m sure many others do, I dwindle time away by scrolling through my endless Facebook Feed, searching through endless puppy pictures on Pinterest, and swiping left and right on Tinder. The age of connectivity…though, is it really?
It seems nearly everything has a place on the internet these days; every individual and every company has their own social media pages and their reputation hinges on it. Our lives are evolving to envelope social media into our everyday routine – it’s on our computers, our tablets, and most importantly our phones. An instant access pass allows us to be in control of our online presence 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The issue, as displayed in this Huffington Post article, is that people choose to use this a way to hide from the real world around them. We portray ourselves behind a social media mask that allows us to pick and choose which personality traits are shown to the public. We amp up our normal lives to seem luxurious and put forth a better image than our friends and family.
Everything is a competition – most likes, most shares, most followers. We share our most flattering angels on Instagram and Snapchat and update our Facebook statuses with things that we know our friends already align with in order to rack up likes. We create a cookie-cutter world in which people fit into certain #hashtag societies reminiscent of cliques in grade school. I say all of this fully knowing that I have fallen prey to this myself, that I, in fact, will be hashtagging this very post. Which brings me to how this conversation was sparked initially.
Tinder. The dating app that is downloaded on seemingly every millennial’s phone; according to Craig Smith at Expanded Ramblings, millennials actually make up 79% of Tinder’s users. Though online dating has been around for some time (who can forget You’ve Got Mail), Tinder took it to an entirely different level. It seemingly eliminates the need to go fishing for new people at the local water hole to find that one guy or gal that you haven’t managed to get on your bad side yet.
The issue? A few things.
First, if you still live in your hometown, odds are you’re still going to see the same faces you have for years. Having moved home recently, I noticed several people I knew popping up while swiping and found myself raising an eyebrow at their profiles (hence how this topic came up). You’ll have to extend the radius quite a bit in a small town to get to somewhere that holds several unknowns, and be willing to travel that far if you intend on actually meeting up. These types of apps – Tinder, Plenty of Fish, I could name several others – all hinge on your location. Having lived in both a city and now being back in small-town USA, I can personally attest to how much better this formula works in a city. There are simply more options and less of a chance that you will have Facebook Connections at the bottom of another profile.
Second, does anyone else use Tinder as more of a game than an actual dating app? Or am I the only asshole around? I swipe left and right with one hand and sip wine from another, laughing at the ridiculous one-liners that people send. I refuse to believe I’m the only one.
Lastly, even if you do use this as a legitimate dating app (I’m aware of the several articles highlighting the better side of Tinder) we are continuing to portray this Social Media Mask throughout the matching process. Once a match is made (almost solely on looks) and an interesting tidbit sent to spark conversation, we keep up the conversation in a very strategic way. Not only Tinder, but Facebook Messaging, or simply texting have an advantage over social interaction IRL (in-real-life for my readers not as familiar.) How often do you get to consult your three friends about a response to a cute stranger mid-conversation in a bar? Online, we are allowed valuable time to think through a response that suits our suitors, something that we do not have face-to-face. Unfortunately, in most cases, these well thought out responses cannot be easily replicated once we’ve decided to setup a true offline date. Of course, I’m sure there are cases in which a match lives up to their online persona, but then the question is, do you?
The examples given from Tinder can easily be transferred to almost any other social media platform. The memes we choose to share or not share, the comments we do or don’t leave, the updates we choose to post all add to our online persona. Unfortunately, most of the time this self-portrait does not quite match up with the real picture.
So, how do we make a change in this?
It’s hardly plausible to tell everyone to delete their social media, nor would it be beneficial. I understand that we still want to share amazing photos and feats with family members that are across the country, which are only some of the great benefits of social media. However, I do hope that we begin to think more about the off-hand passive-aggressive updates and the “feeling myself” selfies we constantly post. Do you want that far off relative to imagine you with the glamorous lifestyle that your Facebook feed portrays and be surprised by a completely different picture upon visiting? Well, maybe you’re okay with that, but I would think most of us would like to be a tad more genuine.
Drop the veil.
As I’ve said in posts before, we all need to break free from the confines of social expectations and simply be true to ourselves. At the same time, we need to respect others when they shed those layers; rather than confining them to certain roles, we must allow our peers to test out the waters themselves. If you wouldn’t say something to someone’s face, but are thinking about posting it online, maybe you shouldn’t. Or better yet, if it’s important enough to tell the world about, perhaps you should simply have a sit-down conversation with them. We need to regain our ability to have healthy debates and come to understandings without the ease of deleting comments or ignoring texts and claiming signal failure. Some things are simply better dealt with in person and we as a society need to become better at discerning which they are.

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