Social media was the topic of this week’s lecture. A very interesting topic we came across was the idea of “a second self”. Anybody that has a social media footprint has a second self. It’s the digital you. The you, you present to the online world.
Amber Case in the video below presents the idea that there are two versions of ourselves. One is present in the real world and one resides online.
Amber Case in the video below presents the idea that there are two versions of ourselves. One is present in the real world and one resides online. We do no exist alone in one world anymore, we exist in two.
Case suggests that we are all now cyborgs. She defines a cyborg as “an organism to which exogenous components have been added for the purpose of adapting to new environments”. A new environment for which we have adapted to in this case is the digital realm. The “exogenous components” that have been added are mobile phones. They allow real-time communication in line with what is expected of a savvy social media user. Case suggests that we’ve added exogenous components to allow us to connect with a different environment. We’ve added mobile phones to our bodies to connect with the digital realm. We’ve become cyborgs in order to extend our mental selves.
Our second selves are our presence on the internet. Anybody that has a social media account has a second self. Like we present ourselves in the real world, we must now manage the second version of ourselves on the internet too!
Managing Your Second Self
Managing our second selves isn’t as straightforward as it may seem. It isn’t always a true reflection of somebody’s “first self”. It’s no secret that we usually only post the best things about ourselves online. The Independent speaking about social media reports
“We use these outlets to present a false picture of our lives to the online community; with flattering selfies and faux-glamorous images of holidays, parties and meals”
This is especially common on Facebook and Instagram. As modern day cyborgs, social media is an integrated part of our existence and we are not immune to its negative effects- feelings of anxiety, isolation and low self-esteem. (The Independent).
A study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh suggests that social media makes us depressed but argues that social media only exacerbates existing issues stating that many users turn to social media to fill a void. The study concluded social media is significantly linked with increased depression but is not necessarily the cause.
Despite this study, people turn to Instagram for inspiration to get fit (Glamour.com) and sometimes develop body dysmorphia and eating disorders because of a distorted view of what’s reals real and attainable, but frequently, these “inspirational” images are because of good lighting and the right angle.
Luckily there are plenty of people exposing these distorted, fake images like Instagram user Millie Smith . Millie Smith exposed fake transformation photos in order to promote body positivity as reported by positive online community Hello Giggles.
Twitter does not escape the parade of negativity. It’s easy to be misunderstood when you need to fit everything you want to say in 140 characters or less, which happened in the case of Justine Sacco. She was going on a long flight to Africa and made a joke about America’s privilege but it was gravely misunderstood (Dailymail.co.uk)
Justine Sacco’s second self was scorned and sent threats because of one tweet. She was away from social media for the duration of her 16-hour flight to Africa and could not manage the damage her second-self was causing.
Sacco was ultimately fired from her job as a public relations professional due to mismanagement of her second-self and perhaps her sense of humour. She intentionally tweeted to her followers who understand Justine’s humour but she had no idea one retweet could do this much damage to her real life.
I feel the the line between our second selves and our real selves (first selves) is blurring. More and more often, what we do online feeds through into our real lives and has a profound affect. The same applies vice versa. If a real life action happens, it follows into our online lives through other cyborgs granting the instance possible virality and a permanent status on the internet.
Our modern society is built upon panic architecture. It instills the need to constantly check our social media accounts for updates and notifications. Those who do not see themselves as a target to this architecture, does not not mean they do not fall victim to it. Panic architecture urges us to obsessively check and monitor our social media. Some like to believe that it is possible to escape this phenomenon but if work against, if we don’t fight this compulsion, we too could fall victim to the wrath of the blurred line between our second and first selves.