I remember the first time I built myself an online profile on the Internet, I was about sixteen and it was on a site called Faceparty. It was a bland, unimaginative social media platform, displaying a very pixelated profile photo and a short bio. As a teenager the attraction was having a canvas in which to express yourself, collating as many online 'friends' as possible, and basking in the self-satisfaction that your profile represented your individuality. But this fascination didn't last long; I was quickly lured into a new online phenomenon - Myspace.
Myspace was the very beginning of the online narcissist- having to make considered choices like which profile picture to use and which friends to select for your 'top eight'. These were perhaps some of the hardest decisions in an adolescent's life. It became an online meeting place, exclusively for apathetic teenagers, who listened to Emo-rock music. (Shamefully, I was one of these). Myspace was a big step up from Faceparty. You had a wallpaper and theme music playing your favourite band; it was your own online realm and it was becoming huge.
But Myspace was alienating quite a large audience. Social media was growing fast, but there was still a gaping hole in the market. Suddenly, Facebook and Twitter opened their doors to the entire world. Social media then became a universal phenomenon, completely changing the face of consumerism and online interaction. But this was still before smartphones and 'selfies' even existed. This was back in the "Just logging in to check my Facebook for two minutes" days, right before everything got real real silly.
The key appeal to these sites is our self-perception. We can now edit ourselves. We can show the world a version of ourselves. We can post updates at the gym, or pictures of our healthy food, or rehearse for an engagement picture announcement photo. We only see the good stuff, never the bad.
Since the birth of Instagram we can now airbrush ourselves, filter ourselves and manipulate ourselves. The tools have become so sophisticated; we are able to edit everything.
So who's viewing all this crap we post? Do our online 'friends' really know who we are? Of course they don't. They only see the edited version of ourselves. They don't see our human side. They don't see our pain, worries, anxiety's, our spots, our 'fatty bits', our real thoughts, our actual political stance, nobody ever see's what really makes us human. We exist as an online entity, massaging each other egos.
But how has the world roped us into this? Why do we cry out for a share of voice? Has celebrity culture captivated us that much that everybody regards themselves as a micro-celebrity in their own right?
Here are two things I learnt from a good friend of mine, who worked in social media:
1.) Everything we post on the Internet is in ink, NOT in pencil.
2.) We have reached a stage now where every idiot has a voice.
I mean, twenty years ago this sentence would sound daft - "Two secs, I just need to let seven hundred people I barley know, that I feel deeply confused. I might add an emoji for extra effect".
Social media is escapism into a different space-time continuum, where we can unknowingly neglect our loved ones in real time, sat at the dinner table with our phones out. We live in a world now where we thrive off sharing data. People get anxious about who's liked their picture, or whether it's received any comments. Social media is huge distraction and can waste away the hours in a day.
I'm not saying for a second that I myself don't use social media - I used to love it! But as I've gotten older I have become a much more private person, wanting less of a social trace online as humanly possible, with perhaps a small presence in a professional capacity. But these things come round full circle. It wasn't until I recently Googled myself that I was embarrassed to find my myspace profile still existed. After some digging I discovered that you can delete it, using this helpful link.
The Internet is a sacred little bugger, eh?
Now, I'm not advocating for one second that everybody just deletes all of their online profiles, but since I've deleted my Instagram and started limiting my time on Facebook I can tell you that I feel a lot more free and less bound by my phone, buzzing every two seconds. It feels liberating and I feel like I have snatched back more of my time. Ease yourself off, just gently, and I promise you'll notice a difference.