Social Media Masquerade: A Digital Age of Identity Masks

Author Harold Bell examines how social media has become more about what we want others to think of us, rather then the lives we actually lead.

                                                                                                                        Illo: AD Avila
The music plays softly as you walk across the room, engaged in the beautiful masks worn by those around you. Bright, vibrant colors grace each face, surely personifying the lives of the mask bearers. As you make your way around the masquerade ball, you question if your mask compares to those of the ones you see. Are my colors as vivid? Does my mask evoke an intense reaction? The self-doubt becomes increasingly difficult to ignore. You find that although you intended to have fun, you have become more concerned with how the others at the party view you. Unfortunately, as with masquerade balls, this is also true of social media. We have become more consumed with the response of others than actually engaging and sharing content. The underlying assumption is that the masks, or in this case user profiles, personify the lives that people live. The reality is quite the opposite.

Though I am not speaking for all social media users, the majority of users I’ve encountered participate in social media in an attempt to show social dominance -- a competition of sorts. Despite the fact that their lives may not at all mirror what is being shared online, social media users post things that will appear cool to their “friends” and followers. This behavior is comparable to buying a new gold watch and making sure that everyone you know sees you wearing it. Surely, they will assume a number of positive things about you, both economically and socially, based on your new purchase. Another good comparison, though seemingly unrelated, would be what my mentor Maribel would call the “Oppression Olympics”. Ethnic groups within America constantly compete on which group’s journey has been the most difficult, citing various historical events to somehow become champion of oppressed people. Considering both examples, social media has become nothing more than a virtual competition of who has the most desirable life.

Again, I am not saying that all social media users exhibit this type of behavior and I would like to commend those who use it for its original intent -- to share interesting content, both personal and professional. But if left unchecked, social media can ultimately become nothing more than an online vehicle to reinforce social and economic divisions. The most dangerous part, in my opinion, is how subtlety these divisions take place. A mere post can be manipulatively entertaining for you, but can also ignite a variety of emotions within someone who envies the life they think you have.  At the end of the day, you cannot apologize for genuinely wanting to share an amazing experience that you had with the people you know. But also be conscious of whether you are sharing with the best intentions in mind, or if you are sharing to appear a certain way. We all have a voice and social media has been a great tool in letting our voices be heard. I would just hate for us to waste such beautiful tools on conspicuous motives.

This article is part of the categories: Arts & Culture  / Technology 
This article is part of the tags: Facebook identities  / Social media culture  / Social media identities  / Twitter talk 

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