The social media image that one has often does not accurately represent reality. Social media allows people to put on masks of identity using “techniques” to sustain impressions. A dramatization of this concept of masks is presented above where the woman portrayed has a mask that is more conservative than her actual appearance. McLuhan elaborates on the idea of masks by saying that, “the maker tends to project his own image as the mask of the user or reader which he endeavors to ‘put on.'” This is to say that the mask allows the performer to see the world differently and to also be seen differently (De Kosnik). Masks are readily available due to the ease with which people can access social media. Using these masks people construct their life rather than document it realistically and live vicariously through their “character”. In social media people can be who they want to be but the unrealistic image people present leads to possible difficulties connecting intimately.
With so many people performing simultaneously on social media and so much content shared instantly it is difficult to sort through what is important and what is unimportant. This is where meaningful connection can be lost because people focus on the wrong things while looking over what matters most. Social media changes the experience of interaction because it creates the possibility to, “have the experience and miss the meaning” (McLuhan). As McLuhan says, “the mysterious thing about this kind of
speed-up of information, whereby the gap is closed between the experience
and the meaning, is that the public begins to participate directly in actions
which it had previously heard about at a distance in place or time.” The closing of the gap is something social media inherently does but the significance of this can have dangerous consequences. Instead of being present, mindfulness is lost when people focus on attempting to connect to people, things and events far away from them and forgetting to value their immediate environment. The effects are less meaning within interactions however more numerous they may be.
This episode of Black Mirror exemplifies the way in which people are deathly afraid of the consequences of public rejection or criticism. This character in pink, Lacie, is penalized with a deduction of her official public reputation/ranking for making a scene in the airport. In her virtual world, ones public reputation is used to allow people access to things such as a plane ticket in her specific case. This is an example of how peer pressure can suppress behaviors that society decided is “bad” and unwanted. We have varying degrees of how much of our true self we can show to people depending on how close we are to them. The extent to which we trust someone to accept us is the extent to which we can reveal our true selves to that person. In one-on-one interactions there is the potential to be as close as possible to our true self. In groups we have to hold back a bit because you are not comfortable with some people in that group regardless of how much you trust other people within the group. In social media where content is for everybody to see we are the least like our true selves. We have to take into consideration everybody that may view the content and so it is naturally censored or adjusted for acceptance. McLuhan however, asks us to think of social media performances as “making” instead of “faking” although social media can certainly be used to create a new public persona that does not reflect the way someone is in real life. Although people create “characters” to represent themselves on social media which can be interpreted as “faking”, it can conversely be considered to be “making” if looked at from the perspective that separates the “true self” in real life and the “character” created on social media. If we can view these two personas as separate entities instead of as supposed to be one and the same, we can view these social media performances as a creation of a new entity instead of a false representation of the preexisting self.
- What is your opinion of social media and do you believe it helps or hurts human connection? Why do you use it or why don’t you?
- Do you agree with McLuhan that social media should be thought of as “making” versus “faking”?
- In what ways (if any) would you say you are different online than in person?
“At the moment of Sputnik the planet became a global theater in which there are no spectators but only actors” by Marshall McLuhan