If someone ever denies the satisfaction of receiving “likes” on social media, know that they are lying. No, I don’t care what they say. They are lying. End of story. To some it’s a stamp of validation. “I am noticed!” “They like me!” “I fit it!” #notbasic. It is a satisfying feeling to be in the loop of things and be recognized.
Fine, let me back off just a little bit. I’m not saying it is a bad thing to want a few hits on social networks. What I am saying is that people take it too far and allow it to define who they are. Even worse, people stress over it. Social media is a part of Generation Y’s lifestyle. I was asked if I had friends or knew anyone who didn’t have social media. Yes, I do: my grandmother. It is so rare to have teens (and now, pre-teens) to be invisible when it comes to SNS. The new-school kids speak another language and use a different platform of communication. We are tweeting, “checking-in” on Facebook, blogging, Instagraming, you name it. Social media is one of our milestones! I advocate for the good it does, but am also fully aware and even more involved in expressing the dark sides to Social Networking Sites (SNS). With everything that surrounds this epidemic, the biggest side-effect is anxiety. Gen-Yers are being consumed by SNS and literally fall into a dark hole because of it.
In Karan Singh’s Elite Daily article, he points out there are case studies that support the notion that SNS causes mental disorders like anxiety and narcissism. The purposes of SNS are not in question, it’s the dependency of it that is. He breaks it down to two types of social media goers: the professional versus the personal.
For those who leisurely use the virtual world, which is most of us, for personal purposes, we don’t realize that we have subconsciously created a personal brand image via social media. The pressure to maintain this image is what contributes to our growing anxiety.
Singh touches on a very interesting point. For the many of us who use SNS for personal use see it as an opportunity not only to document our life, but to document it in a certain way. What we upload is our choice and says a lot about who we are as individuals. In building up this “brand image” we seek for it to justify who we believe we are. The back-story to all this decision-making isn’t really talked about. Why do we choose not to upload a selfie on bad hair days or tweet ten tweets in a row about heartbreak? Because we want those viewing it to see us as this flawless and strong individual. Sure, we might post one picture with a bit of fly-away hair or even post one tweet about how sappy we feel, but not to the point where it is excessive. We don’t ever want to be the over-dramatic, self-centered, or lazy type some of of our real emotions actually portray.
Let’s be honest, we all have that one person in our lives that certainly acts like this. And how we view them isn’t so great, therefore, we tend to stay away from that same opinion in dealing with what we share. It is not only what an individual wants to remember and chose to share on profiles, but the audience perception as well. If we compare our SNS to a brand company, then I am sure we have an understanding on the importance of representation as well as reputation: Our presence or activity and our kind of activity. CEOs want to be great, visible, and perfect. One bad review can ruin everything. That is why anxiety is linked to the SNS “company” we build. We don’t want to slip up.
In Dave Eggers’ The Circle, we see how Mae and all the other Circlers are concerned with PartiRanks and reputation. PartiRanks reflect how mobile you are on social media and your overall activity surrounding posts (Circlers call it “zings”). The whole novel surrounds itself in the feeling of anxiety! In order to have a good PartiRank score you have to constantly be uploading, commenting, and RSVPing to all the major events. If you don’t, then you are outcasted and questioned for being inactive. The Circle is the leading company in technological advances and has the strongest presence in the SNS world. They literally have a brand image to uphold, as do its employees who are its heart and soul of the company. To live up to such a prominent name, Circlers’ anxiety is heightened. It’s either you fit in or you don’t. And not fitting in and being a part of the company is bad news. Just like the Circlers, Gen-Yers must continue this legacy in order to be known, while also keeping in mind that it is not just any legacy but ‘The Legacy.’
It is not easy to deal with the anxiety social media comes with. I always said that if people can’t deal with the bashers and trolls on the Internet, then they should just click out. Better yet, they should just delete their profiles. But my perspective has shifted. Anxiety and social media is a real thing with no simple answer. Once someone has an online profile and experiences the uneasy feeling it can often give you, then saying to stay off the Internet doesn’t seem like the right answer. The damage is already done. Now, I feel like anxiety and narcissism alongside social media should be an issue to address. It is just as important as any other mental disorder and social issue.
With the availability of the Internet for many around the world, this social world of ours will only continue to expand and grow. As this transpires, the definition of a person with a social media addiction will change along with it. In fact, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) was recently published with revisions of certain personality disorders, one of them being narcissism, for example.
Social media doesn’t look like it will die down any time soon, nor will the baggage it carries become any lighter. We see in the novel that the pressure to keep up with mainstream media, SNS, and our image can be stressful, even maddening. We shouldn’t only focus on the good that the Internet has done for us, but the menacing side to it as well. There is another story to be told about what we post online. We have to address the mindsets we develop outside of our screens and look into our own mind. “The Struggle” isn’t just expressed in our posts online, but an actual real, long-term issue that we experience today.
Singh, Karan. “Social Media Is Changing How We’re Hardwired, Giving Us Much More Anxiety.” Elite Daily. 9 Aug. 2013. Web.