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Private Self/Public Self and its Impacts from Social Media

Everyone, or the majority of everyone has social media of some sort. The popular ones are Face Book, Twitter, Instagram, and Snap Chat. When the pandemic hit in 2019, many people found Tik Tok, and it became popular and seemed like a good way to pass the time because everyone was told to stay home and quarantine. Once scrolling video after video and laughing or learning new information, or simply sympathizing with a stranger’s story, people felt connected in a world where everyone was yet in a mass of isolation from each other. But how much of what is viewed on social media, is true to form? How does the viewer distinguish between the private self and public self? Or the better question may be, how does the “creator” or “influencer” distinguish between their private self and public self?

Whenever people are online using social media or any site for that matter, nothing is private. The internet knows what people are doing, even down to when and where. What people do on social media turns into a virtual panopticon. A panopticon is a form of central observation where people may or may not even know they are being watched. Basically, what people do on social media becomes a performance. People and their “Interactions with social media are not natural. They are scripted, photo-shopped, and sometimes contrived. It is a performance for our social media audience” (Nanji – Nov. 2014) and a lot of people tend to get caught up in it. the act of creating this public self gets them likes, comments, and then people end up wanting to follow and be your friend. This feeds a continual need for validation and recognition. They end up wanting to continue to please their audience. But in doing so, the audience, most of the time, is getting a view of a public self, rather than a private, true self. The content shared ends up being of entertainment. “The expectant crowd draw us out of ourself. By commanding performances from us, the crowd draws out our singularities, those unique features of our person that represent our leading potentials” (Nanji – Nov. 2014). This could be positive as it allows them to share things that they otherwise would not feel comfortable sharing. After all, they are not known by their viewing audience. They might learn or discover something new and positive about themselves. It also could have a negative impact because is what they are sharing taking them farther away from their more private, truer self? On social media, they can be whoever they want to be. They are not known by their virtual audience, and they can control how they want to look and say what they want to say. They create a public persona that sometimes is very different from their private persona. Is this a good thing or can it have some more negative aspects that can be harmful?

Social media effects people psychologically. If people are not careful, they can easily get caught up in the content that they put out and become consumed how many times it is viewed, liked, and shared. It can consume them without them even knowing. “For hundreds of millions of people, sharing content across a range of social media services is a familiar part of life. Yet little is known about how social media is impacting us on a psychological level” (Rayner – June 2012). Peggy Orenstein, the author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter, reluctantly signed up for a Twitter account to help promote the book. Before long, it became an addiction. Tweeting soon became the perfect opportunity to become expressive to a wide, unknown audience. Thinking up the perfect tweet became important as it became the very definition to life and gave it purpose. To make every tweet interesting to attract viewers/readers, Peggy would put her own creative spin on things that were otherwise just boring experiences. “I quickly mastered the Twitterati’s unnatural self-consciousness: processing my experience instantaneously, packaging life as I lived it. I learned to be “on” all the time, whether standing behind that woman at the supermarket who sneaked three extra items into the express check-out lane (you know who you are) or despairing over human rights abuse against women in Guatemala” (Rayner – July 2012). What was learned during the experience was that everything being shared across Twitter as well as other platforms, is a person’s own view on the world and it defines them as a person. It happens to everyone before they least expect it. “We give focus and definition to our life through tweeting, just as a poet gives definition to his or her life through writing poems” (Rayner – July 2012). The more a person puts out on social media about themselves can soon lead to a certain anxiety. “Each Twitter post seemed a tacit referendum on who I am, or at least who I believe myself to be” (Rayner – July 2012). Without realizing, people can find themselves falling into a state where they feel they constantly have to justify or prove themselves through their postings and content. It can soon become an unhealthy cycle and in the end, may not even portray a person’s true private self but rather a sometimes-fake public self that then have to spend much tie keeping up with and it can get exhausting and way negatively on one’s psychological state of mind. One becomes what social media expects them to be and not who they really are.

In closing, social media can affect a person’s private and public self in both positive and negative ways. It allows people to take control of their own identity. “We must guard against the danger that our tweets, posts, and shares become mere performances, a play or masks that is disconnected from our authentic self” (Rayner – July 2012). It is the responsibility of every person to make a healthy conscious decision of everything that is put out there for others to see. Social media can be a great tool for creating and affirming the self and knowing the difference between the private and public self can make a difference on how a person’s long-term state of mind and well-being are maintained and protected.



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