Sunday, 20 December 2015

Identity Crisis: I am what I post. (Social media and it's impact on identity)

Hello Everyone,
This is just some rough media theory ideas I have to start with. The essay discusses the impacts of social media on our identity and sense of self. 

Media has impacted our lines of communication, opinions and views of the world in a variety of ways, some of these being positive and others negative; some have even impacted our identities and sense of self. 
There have been many discussions about how social media, in particular, is impacting generation after generation; it is believed that social media has been a true cause of “identity crisis” in some cases where the lines of online persona and offline identity blur. Self-esteem, confidence, language and social interaction development is believed to be less advanced in those who use social media regularly, in comparison to those who have regular face-to-face communication.

Your identity is not something you are born with, who you are, is not written within your DNA and nor is the person you will become. Moreover, your identity is built up through external and internal experiences, I am not the same person I was 5 years ago at the age of 18, nor will I be this same person at the age of 28, 5 years later. Who I am is based on my environment, experiences, the people I surround myself with as well as many other factors. If we throw in a mix of the media culture with easy access to a variety of different corners of the world and I’m sure you get the idea; media is believed to be an extension of self.
Before the Internet became a high part of our day-to-day life, there was a high amount of anonymity with a lot of people not revealing as much about their real identity as they do online, in today's culture. 
Online persona’s have become closer to our reality with many people beginning to blog their day-to-day life, post a status about it on Facebook, share images which relate to their situations as a form of expression and write tweets of no more than a few characters to their favourite celebrities; the social media is gaining more of our identity in comparison to how it was previously and this can pose many threats such as identity theft, hacking and tracking every move, easy ways of finding where you live etc. But of course, it has many positives as well, we can get to know new people and learn more about ourselves by connecting with these people, who we share similar interests with according to their profile.  
However, although social media attempts to connect everyone together, forming a united global nation, there are still some negatives and worrying cases in which, social media has actually placed people in harm or had them questioning their identity and sense of self.
Identity theft is just one of the many crimes that can occur on social media, people who often steal your identity and take on this fake persona can be after a variety of things, and they may target your friends or family. Over one million people are affected by online identity theft every year; the aftermath of these events can cause the victim major identity repairs which cost them countless hours and money to fix. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, the more information they obtain about you, the more they target adverts and interests personally to you therefore, giving them more revenue, which is why many adverts that appear on your Facebook, twitter or YouTube will be different to the adverts appearing on your mothers or best friends. However, by publicizing so much online you are opening up a world of crimes right at your door step, for example if you post that you’re out of town on Vacation you may have invited someone in to burgle your house and they’ll find that online somehow, whether it’s tracking the location of your old statuses etc. With websites like Pinterest, YouTube and Flickr, people can get real insight into who you, your family, your friends are and what your interests etc.
Identity theft can make a victim feel very intruded upon, they may even begin to relate themselves to the person whose stolen their identity, making vast changes to themselves to not associate with the theft of who they are. It’s like you’ve been burgled except what they’ve stolen from you is the safety of your family, yourself and your skin. It’s like they’ve taken your body for a walk around and never returned it, it can lead a person to self loathing for publishing too much about themselves online and sharing so much with others, it can make a person feel invaded, like they have taken away everything you have by becoming you. Furthermore, identity theft especially if your name and details are used to take out credit or bank cards, can wreak havoc on your credit scores preventing the victim from being able to obtain a mortgage to buy a house. (Read about preventing identity theft here: )

You could argue that in some ways, you see so many Instagram photographs, twitter posts about how fabulous your favourite Youtuber’s life is etc. you do your best to look like them, to be slim, toned, to have the same or similar designer makeup brands or clothes.
Social media is a cause for concern on the younger generations to some extent, however let’s not get caught up in this idea that the generation of young viewers do not understand, because they know and they are totally aware of the difference between their social media representation and their reality representation. They are also fully aware that the media’s view and representation of the world is just like looking through a window; you can not see the full picture, you do not know what the surroundings beyond this window view look like; they know this is just one perspective or view point, if they moved away from the window and stepped outside they would see more than just this one view. So why is everyone discussing something, which is just one particular way of viewing the world? Why is the number of views, likes etc. so important? Acceptance.
Each piece of media is targeted to audiences; these audiences will connect and accept each other because they share the same views, it is human nature to seek social interaction and acceptance throughout our lives. People with the same views, obsessions and interests find comfort as well as reassurance, because they are not the only person thinking or feeling this particular view, emotion or obsession, their peers accept them; this acceptance has been known since the dawn of time in human subconscious to have many benefits on a person’s life, you see it within the tribes when we had just basic instinct to survive.
In social media terms, a thousand likes on a photograph, loads of comments showering the person with compliments, affection and admiration, 1 million and something followers may lead to the subconscious thought of “in order for me to be accepted into a social sphere or liked, I need to look like or be like this person.” The feelings of needing to become someone else due to their acceptance or lack of on social media sites have been known to be affect or sometimes be the cause of mental health problems such as Anorexia, depression, anxiety, Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) to name a few.  
A constant comparison between yourself and another person is of course known to lead to low self-esteem, distorted ideas about body image, weight and size or sometimes issues with self and your own personality. So what kind of “identity crisis” does this create? Simple, the audience members may wish to become what they are exposed to or become similar to their peers on these social media sites in order to gain followers, likes, sponsorships, fame, admiration or friends; if this attempt at gaining admiration or followers doesn’t work, they may begin to feel rejected and this will cause comparisons, consist change of image or personality, low self-esteem and confidence, as well as self-loathing.
In experimenting with their looks, their personality and trying to obtain the same style or look as someone they idolize; they may lose the current identity they have. This can be deemed as totally ok, because throughout life we do change identity consistently. However, it is when this desire to be or look like another, lowers the self-esteem of the person and causes severe behaviour changes which are life threatening to themselves or others. It’s OK if you bought the jacket you saw on that YouTuber because you liked it, or because you liked the colour and style of lipstick etc. But when you go to extremes to become this person, when you say things such as “I will never be as popular or glamorous or famous as her” or desire and want what they have, that the audience member may think they require the expensive makeup or jewellery to be accepted, they may seek to find their value online by beginning to blog themselves or expose themselves on camera, even go to extremes of putting themselves in debt to obtain their look.
Essena O’Neill left social media in September 2015 claiming that it’s “not real life”. She claimed that people should not give up on their dreams, went into descriptive details about how she went around taking her images just for the acceptance from others online and went on to say that this is not a life, being stuck to her screen waiting for the comments and likes was not a life.
To some extent, her opinion is valid and certainly understandable. However, although social media has had negatives and created some flawed opinions of audience’s body image, social media has made some advantages of bringing others together.

Facebook has been used to bring people together in a variety of ways, from connecting people such as myself to friends and family back in the UK, to forming revolutions, which overthrow presidents. The Tunisian revolution using Facebook in 2010 and the Egyptian Revolution (also known as January 25) in 2011 are two of the most well known, social media organised revolutions. Tunisian revolution also is known as the Jasmine revolution was a popular uprising against poverty, corruption and political repression, which eventually resulted in President Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali to resign in January 2011. The Protests began when unemployed 26-year-old, Mohammed Bouazizi, set fire to himself outside a municipal office in the town of Sid Bouzid in central Tunisia. The officials demanded his merchandise and they were demanding bribes; many of the protests, which followed these events, were often organised via social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter. Ben Ali responded by sending in his police forces to shoot the protestors and this battle between them continued, from December 18th until January 2011, so what was the involvement of Facebook? Many people involved in the protests posted their videos online either in Tunisian uprising groups, events pages, some contacted each other via Twitter and many of them filmed the events of the police shooting the protesters, posting these online to gather support and more followers in their course. Some of the anonymous people running these pages, in fear of getting arrested asked to remain anonymous, claim to have stayed online for 18 hours to run this page, ensuring protesters have all the information. ( )
Although there may not have been many changes within the wages and unemployment, however, they have more freedom to speak and their online social media, videos etc. are no longer controlled by their government; they have a freedom to speak openly about their experiences, opinions and ideas.
This, however, was not the first time media had been used to gain more followers, in fact, probably some of the most historic moments were the suffragettes extreme attempts to gain propaganda, in order to obtain the votes for women. The WSPU organisation of 1906 was the most radical party, which brought more news and press coverage to the political argument, which had already been debated for a total of 46 years. Emmeline Pankhurst and her two daughters, Christabel and Sylvia, founded the Women’s Social and Political union with the slogan of “Deeds not words”. They committed acts such as smashing the windows of the Prime minister office, chaining to buildings, throwing themselves under the King’s horse etc.
These connections with others who share the same view can be just as dangerous as they are revolutionary. How does this connect with the idea of “identity”? Can you be involved in a social media revolution and tell me it will not change you? To have caused a revolution and have some notice from the government or press, there is an ideology that more and more people will join your course or motion. Sharing petitions online might not be as extreme as jumping in front of a horse, but you’re still speaking about your view point and when others share it or join in with the petition, you instantly have a connection or similarity with that person and you’ve both made some sort of difference. This may have some positive impacts on your sense of self as you realise standing for what you believe in will gain more followers, signatures, likes etc.
Could you imagine what would have happened without Thomas Edison, the man who gave us the light bulb, the phonograph and motion picture cameras? Could you imagine if it were another man, aside Abraham Lincoln, who led America into the Civil war? Would slavery have been abolished without Abraham? The same applies for yourselves, although you may not be a president or king right now, you may not yet have invented something as important as “toaster strudle” or have a daughter named Gretchen, but one day you are going to invent or make a difference, either impacting the world, another world or just a person. This blog post is not to make you feel less of a person, but to make you proud of being who you are, online and offline.

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