When I think of social media pet peeves that bother me, I can think of quite a few. But nothing bothers me above all else, than people who exploit social media platforms for attention from their friends or followers. These people will go out of their way to make sure you know of their existence. They utilize their choice of social media platforms to the fullest, oftentimes even utilizing multiple social media platforms. After all, the more the merrier, right?
These attention seeking behaviors can come in many forms. First, there’s the camera whore. She has a photo album for every event she goes to, and 3,000 photos to prove she was there. Her profile pictures album is longer than her vacation albums, and every single picture looks the same. If you ever need a designated photographer, you can be sure to find that she’ll always have a camera or some sort of photograph taking device on her, although she might not want to take any photos of anyone else but herself. Oh, and look, she just uploaded a new profile picture!
There’s also the girl that uses social media as her diary: “Just broke up with boyfriend. I still love him.”, “Had a horrible day today. Don’t want to talk about it”. It’s not enough that she experiences her emotions on her own, but she must also share them with all of her friends. She likes to engage in “vaguebooking”, often managing to lure the inexperienced into asking “Why, what’s wrong??” to feed her desire to be cared about. To this type of attention seeker, if it’s not documented online, it didn’t happen. In Judith Donath’s “Sociable Media”, she defines sociable media as a way to enhance communication and to form social ties. But to me, I see the way these people use social media as a way of weakening communication because they aren’t communication anything to anyone but themselves.
When I ask myself why these behaviors bother me, I can’t find a straight answer right away. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that the reason why these people bother me is because their actions make them seem so fake. Before social media, how did these people express their need to be paid attention to? Why do people feel the need to always provide updates about themselves? According to psychologist and author, Sherry Turkle, the reason may be because we are losing the ability to compartmentalize our lives. An inability to separate what should be private and what should be public could result in the bombardment of newsfeeds.
Another reason, however, could also be that people are merely trying to make sense of who they are. In an introductory sociology class I took, I learned about the “Looking-glass Self”, a social psychological concept created by Charles H. Cooley, stating that a person’s view of themselves grows out of society’s interpersonal interactions and the perceptions of others. Basically, how a person perceives themselves is based off how of they believe other people to perceive them. And what better way to manage and manipulate how people see you, than to be the one to decide what kind of information and how much of it is shared about you? As an added bonus aside from the ability to control how people see you, sharing information about yourself can activate your brain’s reward system. In a research performed by Harvard neuroscientists, they found that sharing information about your life elicits a neurochemical reward from your brain. As the cherry on top, you can get a significantly bigger reward from divulging your own thoughts and as opposed to the reporting of someone else’s.
However, this also brings into question the authenticity of people’s online personas. If our interactions are carefully constructed to control how we are perceived by others, how genuine of a reflection of ourselves is this construction? When a camera whore hangs out with her friends, does she spend the entire time taking selfies of herself? Does she take these selfies and then show them to her friends, asking for their opinion? Or does she participate in the same actions as the rest of the people she is hanging out with? If the social media overshare-er has no access to the internet for the day, does she text all her friends with hourly updates on what she is doing?
In Mike Wesch’s “An anthropological introduction to YouTube” lecture, he touches upon the issue of authenticity. Should our portrayal of ourselves online be an exact reflection of who we are offline? The problem with attempting to portray our exact selves online is that there are different aspects of ourselves that we show to different people. How can we portray these different facets of our personality through one medium or platform? In considering these questions, I realized that it would be a mistake to let the actions of people through social media platforms decide what kind of people they are. All the posts and social media contributions that I am able to see happens during context collapse.
How and what I am seeing now, might not be how or what the producer of the content intended for me to see. My reception of their media production online is a devoid of the knowledge of their emotions and reasoning behind their posting at the time that they posted it. The aspect of themselves that people choose to display though social media is not necessarily the truest and most genuine part of them; in fact might even be only an exaggeration of one aspect. So I guess the moral of the story (if there is one) is to not judge people based on what they do online since we are all guilty of manipulating how we appear online.