THE REAL AND VIRTUAL SELVES: WHAT IS SOCIAL MEDIA DOING TO BOTH?

I don’t know about you, but scrolling down my news feeds, I sometimes feel I’m reading about people and lives I have absolutely no idea about. These are definitely not the same people I met socially or went to school with. They didn’t talk this way. In fact, from what I remember, a lot of them didn’t talk at all. Have they only discovered their fiery, opinionated, demonstrative selves after the advent of social media? I often wonder.
I think social media has done a lot for the aspirations we all nurtured, somewhere within ourselves. Either knowingly or unknowingly. We all wanted to ‘take a stand’ on issues, ‘voice our opinions’ or sometimes just crib. It could be the most relevant or those highly trivial issues in life. But Facebook and Twitter have thrown open their doors for us to pour our hearts out.
It could be the rape of the 23 year old girl in Delhi the nation was incensed by. I truly believe it gave all of us a chance to express and spread the angst. Nobody escaped the furore. A lot of us who weren’t in the city or couldn’t make it to the protests gave reason for those protests to happen. And for the authorities to come out and try to give an answer.
At the same time, it could also be something as banal as a family event. But it gives you the opportunity to share your joy with the world. It helps you keep in touch with people whom you’d otherwise have no chance of ever knowing anything about.
Social media has therefore made life a lot easier and a lot more complicated. Easier by transcending barriers of geography, caste, class, age, sex and financial status to bring us all together on issues that matter and in not losing touch with the world.
But also complicated because, in fostering these different meanings online, we don’t really see that social media tends to eclipse our real selves. We often end up talking, behaving in ways, doing things, we don’t, otherwise in life. It’s like a split personality. You meet these strange people each time you log into your account. Social media has given us both the reason and the platform to be the people we aren’t or cannot be in life. There are things that are done only online. And it’s something we all accept. But do we wonder if it contrasts starkly with how we are once we look up from the computer screen?
It’s fine if we’re weaving dreams. But do we at least realise we’re doing so? Also, these are not just ‘different’ people we’re creating out of ourselves on the Internet. Very often, they are people who are nothing like us, and if you met them somewhere, they would probably tell you they can’t imagine that other, ‘real’ side to you. It’s that much of a contrast.
Which is why our social awkwardness and incompetence in our daily lives are even scarier. It’s like we’ve chosen to live for and invest our energies into only the online world. One actually begins to wonder if we’ve chosen the virtual world to escape the real, or if we find it difficult to come back to the real after being in the confines of the virtual for so long. Because clearly, there is some part of us that we leave in one when we travel to the other. And that is the part that makes all the difference.

Post By: Lata Jha 

 

 

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