As we have seen along the week, Goffman (1959) introduced us to the idea of impressions management. He affirmed that we shape our personality and our behaviour according to the environment we find ourselves in and the people we are interacting with. As if we had ‘layers’ of our personality and we choose to play with them depending on the situation. Some say that on our social media interaction, for example, we present ourselves differently from how we do ‘irl’ because we feel more free to do so.
Sherry Turkle, another of our readings stands on a different side in this discussion. She makes a strong point on how social media and online interaction actually makes us feel more alone and isolated. The connections we build online do not reflect the real life, in person connections we naturally seek as human and social beings.
Interestingly, one of the main features in the latest issue of TIME magazine (November 7th) regards the alarming percentage of adolescents facing anxiety and depression, and in not few cases they have a strong impulse of physically harming themselves. Throughout the article, the discussion revolves around that the fault for this to happen is (look at that!) social media. The life portrayed in Instagram pictures and Pinterest makes users think less of themselves and puts them in a trap where they then try to fake feelings and situations to fit in this online unreal life.
It is understandable the reasons for it, the behaviour and the euphoria provoked by social media. People get tempted to share with the world only the good sides of their life, building the image that their lives are, in fact, flawless.
But, a question I need to make is, do all of us really change ourselves between online and ‘irl’? I find pretentious to say so. During the time we have been discussing this topic I have always questioned myself whether it is true to make such a big generalisation about online behaviour. I am an introvert, never been ashamed to admit, and introversion is an extremely typical aspect of my personality, which is perceptible in my online self as well. I have a bit more than 150 friends on facebook, I do not use Instagram and my twitter feed is purely informative. I do not share anything in social media which I would not share outside of it. My level of exposition and my behaviour online and offline are the same – and for the same reason.
What I am saying is not just coming from my own view, some research can back up my argument. Introverts do have little online presence in general, tend to have less ‘friends’ and are also part of fewer groups. To me, this study did not present any new conclusion. It seems logical and natural to me to behave this way.
The point I would like others to consider is that, despite all the noise and business in our social media feeds, there are plenty of us who stay still and quiet – and are fine with it. Social media did not change essentially the way I interact with people, neither did it bring another ‘layer’ to my personality. It is important to be careful when analysing online behaviour and not overrate social media and think this is a bigger influence that it actually is.