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Has social media created the 'dual individual'?


Social media is a place for the self-obsessed at times. You can scroll down an Instagram feed and see many selfies taken at different angles and topped off with an array of filters. Some people upload a different picture every time their mood changes in one day, but why?

Source: businesscomputingworld.com

In a consumer driven culture, you just have to take a trip to your local shopping centre and you will see multiple pictures of barely dressed models with seemingly flawless body figures. This is having an impact on how the masses see themselves, and it has a detrimental effect on how society is being educated about how to act in both the public and personal spheres of communication and self-building. Marketing has been massive in the influence of the beauty image, and displaying a massive image of a model with a protruding six-pack and sculpture like jawbone with zero body hair is actually making the majority of society strive for something that is not attainable without the help of surgery.

Dramaturgical theory is now reality and most people are taking on the roles of people they see on TV, making life essentially a theatrical performance. There is also an emphasis in society to stay young, and therefore the natural symptoms of growing older, or hitting another stage of life are being looked at as negative. This is especially the case for women who have a tough time when it comes to cosmetic judgement. The whole language around a female who is growing older is significantly more negative than a male. For example Women are subjected to negative comments if they are displaying wrinkles on the face, with terms such as ‘weathered’ and ‘hag’ being used. This is different for men as there as society now views them as ‘matured’. There is essentially an argument that society suggests women grow old, and men grow up.

Social media came along and the spotlight is as blinding as ever, especially for young people. People are conditioned now to project an unrealistic version of themselves online, and in the end it just wears down a persons psyche. Everyone is putting so much time into creating a digital identity, and the fine details of a digital persona all depends on how others are portraying themselves online. With all this going on behind the scenes, what happens to the ‘real life’ person in front of the computer? Is there now a duel personality? Are two versions of one entity too difficult to maintain?

This is maybe where the condition ‘Smiling depression’ comes from. Someone who is suffering will be very good at hiding the psychological difficulties that they experience, and often adopt a happy disposition, along with a great sense of humour among social gatherings, but ultimately struggle in isolation.

Social media then is a tool for people who wish to project this platonic ideal of the self. This in turn constructs a mentality other than the physical one that is present, leaving the individual literally in two minds as to who they are. This is where the person finds it impossible to lead two lives, as they are chasing their aspirations in the real world, whilst striving to portray a perpetually happy persona on the Internet.

Source: digitalfire.co.za

If a person then chooses to ditch one of the personalities then problems can occur. In the case that the individual chooses to pursue the goal of polishing their online persona then they become detached from the so called ‘real world’, leaving them alienated from society, therefore their inter-personal skills would suffer as a result of lesser human interaction. If the individual was to abandon the online self, then again this may lead to alienation as now it is an expectation by the majority that an individual takes part in social networking, and if you’re not, then why?

Both of these options could then lead to a psychological illness such as depression and then the spiral continues. This sort of discussion brings up the fact that our society are still children in the world of social media, and young people in particular are facing growing pressure to lead dual lives. Networks such as Instagram are a place to spawn these new personalities, as an individual is not pressurised to display their negative traits, and by looking at someone’s profile, you could easily think that you are inferior due to the perfection quest of some.

It is an issue that will no doubt continue due to the growing influence of not only social media, but also marketing across the world. This is not only in shopping centres that display the beauty image, but also TV shows, films, and magazines that tell you that you should also look like a model, or else success will not come your way. It is a difficult environment to stably live in for some people who are of a sensitive nature, but one hopes that the positives of social media will outweigh a problem such as this.


Alex is an English Literature and Sociology undergraduate whose love for written word has led him to write about some obscure topics in his time. Currently a content writer at Social Media Frontiers, be sure to follow him @AlexSatSMF.

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Has social media created the 'dual individual'? Reviewed by Alex Smith on Wednesday, March 19, 2014 Rating: 5
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