Is our Presence in Social Media Real? Or Not?

source: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/top-25-drama-schools-world-558898

In a study by E. Mitchell Church and Ravi Thambusamy, “Competition and Information Deception in Online Social Networks”, they identified several causes behind one’s actions towards deception in the depiction of one’s personal information. One of which, is the pursuit of status, where one’s deceptively exaggerated personal profile can bring forth increases in status and/or prestige. Examples that were brought up in the study included 50 cent’s experience with bankruptcy. During bankruptcy, 50 cent decided to put up a facade of continuous wealth to maintain his status of being a wealthy celebrity.

In class, the question of whether results of such deception should be considered ‘real’ was brought up, whether social media if considered is real or not. If someone edited their picture on an online dating site to improve their image, should their improved profile be considered real or not? At first glance, this may be blatantly seen as artificial and fake, however, this is dependent on what I perceive as real or not. Just as we see people crafting, deceptively or not, online profiles, the concept of crafting one’s image to fit societal norms can be seen in person, in everyday life. Are we not all trying to be what a ‘likeable person’ is to our friends, our peers, or our society?

In the end, I believe that it all depends on to what level of ‘crafting’ do you consider deceptive, or real, your ability to perceive and identify different levels of crafting, and the intention associated with crafting one’s so called profile. For example, depending on whether you consider putting a filter, airbrushing and photoshop manipulation as real or not is entirely up to you. Adding on to this, many people who first see models online or in magazines, might think to themselves, “Wow, how does this person have such a perfect body” without the ability to determine what level of crafting if any has been done. However, once they are able to determine that a certain level of editing has been done to this ‘profile’, from there they are able to determine whether this level of crafting, according to their own standards can be considered real or not. However, in some cases, someone may extensively craft themselves with not the intention to be deceptive, and that is when determining the intention of someone is important in identifying whether their transformational result is ‘real’ or not.

As @lizfarlinger pointed out, the motivation for a person to craft themselves into something better is inherent to each and every person, “This is a basic human need via love/belonging as expressed in “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” so the basis of its existence is understandable from a psychological standpoint.” Therefore, since everyone will undergo a certain level of crafting in personality or personal profile, if one’s perception of what is real is at an extremely low level of crafting, it could be said that everything is not real; both social media and interactions in our physical world. However, considering everything as not real may limit one’s ability to fully experience the world, therefore a certain degree of tolerance to the extent of crafting of others may be needed, even to the extent of considering social media real. As a result, maybe what Church and Thambusamy commented on, the competition behind status in the form of social media profile deception should not be completely disregarded as fake, or negative. Perhaps, opening our perceptions to ‘personal profile deceptions’ in social media may allow us to further understand our interactions with one another. However, it depends on the person, as one’s perception of whats real is subjective, whether they recognize it or not.

5 Comments

  1. I really liked how you brought up how we all tailor our image to an extent (even in conversation and body language), as this fact is often overlooked by people when they criticize others for being ‘fake’ online. Interestingly, it could be said that adding a filter or caption, for example, to a picture in fact holistically makes the post more authentic as it reveals more of the individual’s personality than an unedited image might. Thus, the individual may actually be revealing more about their internal character in filtering images and taking time to set up the perfect photo than if they just posted images of their every day life as they’re showing their ideals and their view of who they want to be rather than simply who they are at the present moment.

    I also found it interesting how you brought up the subjectivity of reality, as someone might, subconsciously at least, think an altered version of an image of themself is in fact more real than the original because the original may contain blemishes or mistakes that they don’t want to associate with ‘the real them’. Thus, depending on how we view ourselves, we may have images of our true selves online that are completely different from how others perceive us, just like how many people are sometimes unaware of the image that they portray to certain people in social situations through their word choice and mannerisms, especially cross-culturally.

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  2. Hi! I really liked your post, thank you for sharing your ideas.
    I especially liked the part where you discuss the different levels of crafting and how that corresponds to different levels of authenticity. This line of reasoning reminds me of a discussion I had in another class about tourism and cultural commodification. We talked about how the process of a culture crafting itself to be more desirable and accepted by tourists ultimately took cultural meaning away from the culture that was being crafted. Basically, when cultural practices and traditions are modified to be accepted by an outsider they loose their meaning. I am wondering if you think something similar happens when people make crafted posts. For example, if someone goes on a family hike and then takes photos that they later edit to fit what they believe the viewer of the photo desires, does that hike then loose meaning to the person? I hope that makes sense! I enjoyed the post!

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  3. Hi, thanks for this reading response, I enjoyed reading it. I agree with you that the edited information post online is deception or not depends on the observers’ perceptions. Personally, I believe that social norm plays quite an important role in it. Do you think that if majority of users choose to edit their photo, this behaviour would eventually not be considered as deception by the people who used to believe it is any more?

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