Comment Writer Estelle Dragan questions whether in a bid to express ourselves, social media reduces our individuality

Written by Estelle Dragan
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Let’s face it; social media is taking over the world. By communicating in 280-characters or less, fragmenting our life experiences with carefully selected and edited snapshots, and judging our success using the number of likes we receive as a marking criteria, we have managed to condense ourselves to digitalised human beings. Social media is unfortunately no longer a reflection of the self, but rather a restrictive definer.

We are becoming our own competitors.

Social media inevitably leaves us feeling hopelessly inadequate as we choose to expose the mere highlights of our lives. In doing so, we create an embellished version of ourselves; a second self that we start to compete with. We find ourselves comparing our real lives to the artificial life we have fabricated on our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages, and before we know it, struggle to keep up with this artifice, therefore becoming disillusioned with reality. Rather than using ourselves as the mould for our social media accounts, social media is becoming the mould for our identities.

Rather than using ourselves as the mould for our social media accounts, social media is becoming the mould for our identities

“This is for you, not for them.”

In recollection of a Ben Howard gig, Ben pointed out something that I have never forgotten. It wasn’t until he shouted in his microphone, in mid-performance, “Put your phones away guys – this is for you, not for them!” that I realised that everywhere I looked was flooded with camera phones held high. Despite the performance being completely and utterly mesmerising, eyes and ears had been kidnapped and replaced by phone lenses and microphones. Moments are now sadly captured for others to see rather than for the pleasure of first-hand experiences. Ben couldn’t have put it any sharper. We are obsessed with showing people what we are doing, and this obsession seems to supersede our own experiences of these moments. We find ourselves distracted from life’s key milestones, preoccupied with finding the right filter to please the rest of the world. The camera lens now has priority over everything we do, everywhere we go and anything we see. Social media is now the primary source, whilst we, as people, have become the secondary sources of our own lives.

Moments are now sadly captured for others to see rather than for the pleasure of first-hand experiences

Social media is a marketing tool used to promote ourselves.

Whether we realise it or not, our social media accounts have become a method through which we advertising ourselves and our lives. We are no longer posting things online to share our experiences with our friends and followers, but rather to fit the image of ourselves that we have created or aspire to achieve. Why is it that we measure our personal success and self-worth with how many likes and retweets we get? Why does a snapchat story of our friends having fun leave us feeling like we are not keeping up? Why is a celebrity’s Instagram post likely to leave us feeling imperfectly dressed? Cut a long story short, we have an image, a target audience, and a set of competitors. In essence, we use social media to promote ourselves, just like we would with any product we might want to sell.

Far too many of us adapt our lives to fit the image we have dispersed to the world rather than using social media to merely reflect us. We live in a society where most things are constructed and artificial, yet our individuality is one of the few lasting remains of non-artificial things in this world. Before we, as people, become complete prey to this artificiality, we should stop defining our lives within the confines of our Instagram and Facebook accounts and become more receptive to ‘in the moment’ experiences.

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