I think a general statement that we can all agree to is that people use social media to benefit no one other than themselves, only presenting what they want others to see. There is a sort of narcissism that comes with using social media. We want to show the world what is going on in our lives that is working well for us, not necessarily the down falls. This ends up with us feeling a sense of gratification when we get social approval via likes and comments on what we post.
There is no selfless good deed, especially in the digital realm. Any money you donate via Facebook or crowdfunding website makes you feel good about yourself. Even if you make your name anonymous for the donation, you still end up feeling good about what you did.
Considering we can all recognize and realize that we appear to be these awesome people with great lives, recently people are calling others out for not being “real” enough. YouTube and Instagram come to mind when I think of this.
Famous YouTuber Shane Dawson used to do comedic skits and random videos on fast food, life hacks and conspiracy theories. In 2018, Dawson became one of the fastest growing YouTubers due to his different docuseries and projects which went into the lives of other famous YouTubers to show his audience the “real” them. The people that were featured in his series in 2018 were YouTubers who were hated or had recent drama/controversy. He pushed them to show their “true” selves to the world and that would make audiences like them more.
Though Shane Dawson’s docuseries are fun and interesting to watch, are they really successful? Many of the YouTubers who are featured on Shane’s channel grow exponentially as they gain millions of subscribers overnight due to the limelight. So although Shane is searching for the “truth” and “realness” behind these YouTubers, he is only helping them gain popularity and stardom, even if it’s unintentional.
The video below is a part of one of Shane Dawson’s docuseries as he goes to the house of Bunny Meyer, known on YouTube as grav3yardgirl. Meyer’s channel was considered ‘dying’ as her viewership went down. Dawson tries to help her remedy that by showing her “real” life.
People on Instagram get called out for using FaceTune to slightly alter how they appear in photos, for “flexing” (showing off one’s wealth) and being too “picture perfect.”
So, on both platforms, people are being called out for not being “real” enough.
But then there are social media stars like Trisha Paytas. She posted a video of her crying on her kitchen floor over her boyfriend’s infidelity and in the comments, people are calling her a nutcase and insinuating her feelings aren’t valid. I personally believe Trisha Paytas’s video was an actual representation of how she felt. For someone who is used to taking her camera out and documenting her life, I didn’t question the validity of the emotions she “portrayed” in her video.
The video has since been deleted from Trisha’s channel, but below is a re-upload..
So, why did people say her feelings weren’t valid? Why did people claim she was being over dramatic? Perhaps not many people would post a video of themselves having an emotional breakdown on their kitchen floor, but I am sure many people would feel the same way as Trisha if they were in her situation. Were they calling her over dramatic because of her large following? Possibly.
The video of her crying on the kitchen floor became a meme and is now a part of Trisha’s “brand.” Though people called her over dramatic and left her other nasty comments, Trisha rose in popularity due to her mental break and eventually was a part of the UK’s version of Big Brother. Within a year, she became international.
So, one could argue that being real on social media allows you to rise in popularity, but is this really being “real” if you’re gaining followers? Or does the popularity negate your realness? Food for thought.
Many people post on sites like Instagram and YouTube to get some sense of gratification. In this day of age, people can make millions (billions, for a few) simply by making a post. Other people watching them become richer and richer fuels behavior to please other.
Sites like Twitter are not exempt from narcissism. In Jim Brown’s article, “Unhealthy Infrastructures,” he takes a look at quote tweeting. This is what I like to call, “Drawing upon your audience to make your arguments for you.” People who are debating something may use quote tweeting to draw their “opponents” responses to their audience. In this way, Twitter has basically become a room where everyone is screaming at each other.
People who quote tweets to their audience is like a bounty hunter letting their dogs take chase. Snarky comments to one another become public and those who quote tweets are basically saying to their audience, “Look at how funny I am” or “I can make sick burns.” Thus, it’s all about self-gratification.
Here is an example of a very intellectual argument made via quote tweeting:
Now, I’m not disregarding the upsides of quote tweeting, which include richer conversation, context, clarity, etc. People use it to make funny jokes, political statements and voice their disgust on a subject.
Lives and careers have been destroyed by quote tweets in one fellow swoop (Laura Lee and Kezia, for example).
Not only can social media destroy careers, but it allows others to receive some type of gratification by participating in their fall, i.e. “dogpiling.”
Though social media allows us to have conversations with people that we might not have an opportunity to meet in real life, some of these platforms hinder the opportunity as we are not talking to these people face-to-face. We do not know what some people are going through or even look like, thus they have a type of omnipresent veil over them. It’s easier to dehumanize someone when you’ve never seen them before. This makes it easy for people to name-call, bully, threaten and dogpile. An environment that is dehumanizing can lead to a toxic environment where conversation seems impossible.
Now let me step down from my soapbox and stop talking about how social media is the root of evil like your grandma, but I beg you to take a step back before the next time you post something on your social media. Ask yourself, “Why am I posting this? What’s the point?”