By Nasra Al Adawi
Yes, there is no denying that today it is hard to be away from social media. I know. For I, as an adult, have also been swept into the same current.
We all know that social media has become the core of everything that we do now. Furthermore, I’m really intrigued in observing youth within social media but this observation is beyond judgement of right or wrong or in terms of negative or positive impact but more in terms of the perspectives of identity and authenticity.
When I look at social media now, I keep asking myself whether we can really present ourselves like that? What was it that triggered that phenomenal change: where in we are able to comfortably showcase – within the lens of the social media — what could not be accepted traditionally.
I recall quite vividly how socially unacceptable it was to show your photo as a woman even if it were for the purposes of propagating an idea or a product thought in the form of a news article. Now this is a thing of the past. The identity of people and values have become so vivid within social media screens that we, as a nation, find it hard to be as authentic as we should be. Perhaps, the influence of social media globalisation has swept that authentic nature of our nation’s cultural uniqueness.
In an article titled Identity in the Age of Social Media: Blowing the Whistle on Authenticity, Dr Anna Akbari described individuals, in particular youth, who are in social media as avatars, and gave an example from the USA that today, authenticity has become a highly desired and almost elusive value. This means that most of us who are in the virtual world have masked ourselves in various avatars. These avatars are wearers of thin masks not akin to candidates running for political slots or running for office. In all honesty, this is no better than the photos we take in coffee shops or restaurants and has as little value!
The article continues to present the other face in terms even if one tries to maintain a certain authenticity, still one lags behind as we naturally would like the best avatar of ourselves. To admit, we could hardly escape in terms of perfect projection within the lens of social media and at times we are in the danger of defeat in the face of personal obsession of earning followers and earning digital praises and the price is opting out. Yes we get out-of-control in the race towards creating an imaginary persona and denying the chance to present our real identities.
The work of ‘avatar-tization’, as Dr Akbari labeled it, is an unending one. Personally, I admit it is exhausting. My idea is this: Let us try hard not to project our online avatar more than our real physical self. Let us ask ourselves why we maintain virtual stories of ourselves in gyms or restaurants and for what, is the virtual likes worth all these exhausting acts and are we for real?
Why do we have to take a selfie of what we eat and put it on social media? What do we get from that? We need to stop and listen and only then we will find out that our virtual presence does not provide a genuine satisfaction. In contrary, a lot of times it causes us anxiety as we feel the compulsory need in keeping up with followers and yes I would like to direct this message to me as well. I guess I am part of it too!
In creating a social media experience, we ought to remind ourselves to audit in terms of what we project. This may help us to be more authentic, and will reduce creating fake avatars and if we are lucky enough present the true us.