“Everyone’s life looks better on the internet than it does in real life”.
This is a really interesting article by Shauna Niequist on Relevant Magazine’s website (2013). It more or less sums up aspects of the identity part of my research, where I want to explore the identity that’s being portrayed through social media and the way that identity is then received by the follower.
“Our envy buttons… get pushed because we rarely check Facebook when we’re having our own peak experiences. We check it when we’re bored and when we’re lonely, and it intensifies that boredom and loneliness”.
I also think there’s another side to this, where we’re becoming quite suspicious and critical of the communication we are exposed to each day through media like Instagram. One of the questions I ask my first year students, when we discuss social media, is “which media gives you the best insight into an individual or brand’s identity?” and they almost always agree that this comes through Instagram, because a picture says a thousand words; and brands and users are taking advantage of this.
However, when someone posts a photo of flowers their boyfriend has just had sent saying what a lucky girl they are, do we truly believe that this one-off romantic gesture means they have the perfect relationship and are far happier than we are? Or do we actually think the opposite might be the case, where by posting this, the girlfriend is actually confirming that this was unexpected and doesn;t happen all the time; therefore it’s only natural that she’d to make others envious by sharing this publicly. Where the identity becomes more believable (or more constructed, depending on how critical you wish to be) is where this is reaffirmed by regular sharing of “look how wonderful my life” type images or statuses.
I think we’re all guilty of this type of sharing though, in fact when my fiance proposed to me with cupcakes from our local bakery, I shared the news on social media pretty swiftly. Surely everyone’s entitled to initiate a little insta-envy now and again? And if people didn’t “like” these posts then sure we wouldn’t continue to share them? Another question I ask my students is “how would you feel if you posted an image and noone liked it?” and a huge number of them actually admit they’d delete it. I think this demonstrates the extent to which the relationship we have with our followers on social media is two way.