When it comes to managing personal social media accounts, particularly on Facebook, we are engaging in “marketing of the self” to the world at large, whether we acknowledge it or not. Content that goes through this type of filter has useful applications, particularly for job-focused platforms such as LinkedIn. The dark side, however, is the easy and tempting ability to lie about who we really are through the content we post.
Avatars are a perfect example. We can select an accurate, flattering photo from a moment when we were truly happy, or present an image that has been “photoshopped” to death to make ourselves look thinner and younger. Through the careful inclusion of beautiful people we post as friends, the use of image filters and editing, and our check-ins to fabulous locations, we craft an identity lived by an avatar and not ourselves.
This raises several questions:
- Why do we do this? Are we trying to feel more significant? Are we trying to incite jealousy from our 1,000+ friends and family by painting a more successful and affluent life?
- Should our profiles convey the absolute truth? What values do we as a society place on being honest about ourselves?
- What do we believe as truth knowing we are constantly being exposed to versions of manufactured reality living in social media?
- If we can identify ourselves as someone who alters their social identity, backing away from engagement entirely will not provide any answers, but looking at what we’ve posted can shed some light.
If we can’t find a picture of ourselves being truly happy, we should ask ourselves why the photo doesn’t exist, rather than editing ourselves to appear that way. We should give ourselves permission to “go dark” on social media when we’re going through a bad spell, rather than post about how much we love our lives and are “crazy busy.”
Having integrity in social media not only preserves the integrity of these platforms, but also leads us to have integrity as people in our real lives.