Final Major Project: Is Social Media Stealing Our Self Identity?
Gergen’s term “Social Saturation” refers to ordinary people living with constant change. This change comes from the endless electronic messages and stimuli we receive. Under this sensory assault, our identity and the idea of self is broken down, and as a result, we change to meet the expectations of others. (Gergen 2010)
Gergen argues that “social saturation has come to dominate everyday life… as we become increasingly conjoined with our social surroundings, we come to reflect those surroundings. There is a populating of the self, reflecting the infusion of partial identities through social saturation.” (Gergen 2010:49) (see previous post)
As someone who uses social media every day, I can confidently state that Gergen’s theory is true. My phone is a constant hive of activity. Each day, I am bombarded with status updates, posts, emails, and messages from people I know and do not know.
Using social media channels means that I can choose how to portray myself to others and whether or not that portrayal is accurate.
“Texting and e-mail and posting let us present the self we want to be. This means we can edit. And if we wish to, we can delete. Or retouch: the voice, the flesh, the face, the body. Not too much, not too little — just right.”
– Sherry Turkle (Turkle 2012)
We notice how others represent and present their identity. When appearances change, we notice and comment. In our daily lives, we are surrounded by many others. I work in a school and so am surrounded by hundreds of others. Most of those around me have an image or appearance that they need to keep up. Whether they portray the tough guy or the pretty girl, their image and representation online take time and effort.
Each of us has control over our online representation. We have complete and absolute control over our devices. We can post, text, tweet and update whatever we want. Our devices allow us to show the world who we want to be seen as.
However, there is a detachment between the poster and the viewer. We do not exchange conversation other than through text. We can edit every selfie so that we get it just as we want it. We fine tune, write and rewrite every caption so that it delivers the correct message. We can post whatever we want, without thinking twice. We often come across as completely different people in our online and offline relationships.
We are, however, isolated when we do this. We cannot gauge another’s response to the image or caption. We do not receive face to face feedback, and we lack the self-perception that comes with a real-life relationship. Behind the screens of our computers and phones, we can portray ourselves exactly the way we want. We cannot always do this in real life.
Through our ever-increasing use of technology, we can completely rewrite our identities. How can we know if what we are looking at is true or not? In many ways, we still accept things at face value.
“These social influences, accelerated by the recent explosion of technology, may be shaping our self-identities in ways in which most of us aren’t the least bit aware.”
– Jim Taylor (Is Technology Stealing Our (Self) Identities? 2011)
So, is social media stealing our identity? Or are we just adapting to the technology available to produce new identities that better suit who we think we should be?
Gergen, K. J. 2010. The Saturated Self. New York: Basic Books.
Is Technology Stealing Our (Self) Identities?. 2011. HuffPost [online]. Available at: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-jim-taylor/is-technology-stealing-ou_b_910544.html [accessed 7 May 2018].
Turkle, S. 2012. “Opinion | The Flight From Conversation”. Nytimes.com[online]. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/opinion/sunday/the-flight-from-conversation.html [accessed 7 May 2018].