Social Media and Identity

Recently, I had a chat with one of my best friends about how millennials portray themselves online. Pairing newly branded adults with the pressure to publicize their lives creates a landscape of endless possibility. The ever changing nature of our identity at such an age often pairs poorly with the necessity of having a social presence. While we are still figuring ourselves out, we are forced to recognize aspects of ourselves others will like and ‘fill in the gaps’. This can sometimes create an awkward mismatch between our true selves and the identity we adopt online.

Frequently, people find it shocking what their friends and family members post on their social media platforms. One day, I really asked myself why this was. It seems as if social media has transitioned towards being a promotional platform rather than being our personal memory books. The identity most of us exemplify or withhold from our accounts is often done deliberately to shape the opinion others will have. This creates a situation where we seek validation through the identities we choose to ‘try on’. The danger here is that these different versions of ourselves notably incite different responses from people. This can cause internet users, to lose their personal identity, reducing themselves to a mere ‘highlight reel’.

Photo by Katka Pavlickova

Once we begin to create situations in our lives to ‘keep up with our audience’, we lose our ability to live authentically and in the moment. Overtime, this cycle can become habitual thus teaching us to stay relevant. The moment we create artificial situations, promote things we don’t believe in, or alter our image online, we effectively create an alternative identity. This effort made online becomes less accredited as something we enjoy doing and more so as ‘work’ put in for others’ enjoyment.

What I’ve found to be liberating is to feel completely at peace with yourself, who you are, and how you act around others. This is no small task and requires mental training and contentment. We should expand our concept of liberation to social media. If your online persona isn't authentic to you, check in and ask yourself why. With social media acting as a measure of popularity, personality and self-worth, it’s no wonder some of us find it hard to resist the urge of being sucked in.