In the highly digitized world of today, it is almost impossible to find someone without a social media account. Or, even more often, a few of them – Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter… The choices are vast and the opportunities for self-expression are endless. The perceived online anonymity might tempt some into creating completely different personas for themselves online. Or, for most people, we just portray the idealized version of ourselves. Depending on the platform, the rules we set for ourselves might change. A risky photograph sent as a disappearing Snapchat is very unlikely to ever enter an Instagram feed. An anonymous blog might contain more personal information than a Facebook wall.
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Personally, I like to minimize how much information there is on me on the Internet. Although oversharing online might not always bring negative consequences, there is no reason to risk it. A social media profile, no matter what, provides a less-dimensional image of you. Even the images created in the head from the most notoriously picked through profiles will fall apart as soon as you meet that person in real life. Furthermore, there is an implicit social expectation for people to express their identities in a certain way. That is not to say that this would not be a good way of expressing oneself if it was genuine, but since it is not, it is simply an illusion of a person.
There are definitely specific social media platforms used by different groups of people – WhatsApp is for family, Snapchat for friends, and Tinder for not being alone on a Friday night. Many platforms, quite discreetly, create their own community culture. Therefore, those that use the same social media become connected in a new way. Visual social media, for example, Instagram, has a negative effect on mental health for some people due to the ease with which its users can compare themselves to strangers with seemingly perfect lives (Firestone, 2017). I think this feeds into the advantages and disadvantages of constructing my identity online.
Although I do not work in an organization with a strong visual media presence, that may change as more companies delve online. Visual media platforms are often used for building a reputation or visibility for a company or independent project, but it also leaves it up to the public’s scrutiny. If I were to create a professional online identity, I would prefer to separate it from my personal accounts.
Firestone, E. (2017). Which is Worst for Your Mental Health: Instagram, Facebook, or YouTube? PsychAlive.