Social media has become such a prevalent aspect in our lives. In fact, so much of our time is now devoted to routinely staring at a screen, with scrolling, posting, commenting, and liking becoming incredibly routine tasks. Sure, social media is one of the greatest platforms to share ideas, stories, and personal aspects about ourselves for other users to see; nevertheless, it has also become one of the most damaging aspects to our personal identities.
In The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Erving Goffman insists that we each cultivate “impressions” and perform our “parts” in everyday life. This in turn can be linked to our performance on social media platforms. For one, we cultivate an identity that may be similar or completely different from our identity in real life. Online, we attempt to control the impression that we make on others by habitually posting new content and crafting such uploads in a manner that would appeal to the audience. Nevertheless, what is seen online may be completely at variance from what is actually occurring behind the screen.
Here is a video that illustrates the truth behind the cultivation of social media content:
This video evidently illustrates Goffman’s concept of “front stage” and “back stage” as seen in social media. For instance, the “back stage” behavior consists of us acting in a manner that is truly ourselves when we think no one else is looking, and it is often the time when we rehearse certain behaviors or interactions to be performed in public. This was seen in the video by the individuals attempting to craft the perfect picture or video in spite of actually have a reality different from what they attempted to exhibit. “Front stage”, on the other hand, is the behavior we perform when we are aware that we are being watched, and is usually highly intentional and purposeful. In the case of social media, the uploaded product/carefully crafted post, depicts the “front stage” behavior that users perform.
Take the scene of the men drinking the alcohol for example: the “front stage” of this scene depicts the two men embodying those of exciting party animals surrounded by numerous friends and women in a party-like setting; however, after the end of their recording of the mini video, they are then transferred back into “back stage” behavior, where it is revealed that they are in a quiet household during the day time, and have responsibilities that they must cater to in contrast to their wild, party-like selves.
That scene is an excellent example of social media users attempting to reinforce this image of themselves as something they are not. They perform as these characters of liveliness and excitement to appeal to their online audience, when the reality behind the video is that of nothing more than two men putting up a front to their fairly average, boring day.
Consider the notion that on social media platforms, we replace our identities with our online profiles, ultimately utilizing what we post to represent how we want to be idealized as. Therefore, our online selves are almost identical to that of performances – glorified in a manner that hides true components of ourselves that we choose not to reveal to our audiences.
This brings to question if we are truly representing our authentic selves or actually always performing a hyper-idealistic and artificially crafted version of ourselves. Sure, doing so gives us a false sense of superiority and self-esteem via the number of reposts, comments, and likes that we receive; nevertheless it is still imperative that we align our authentic selves with our crafted selves that we put on for our audience to witness.
Rather than perform a certain persona that seems more appealing online, why does one not simply choose to perform that persona in real life?
In what other aspects of social media have you experienced or witnessed Goffman’s concept of “front stage” and “back stage”?
Can there be instances of “front stage” occurring in the “back stage” or vice versa?
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Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life