One thing that I have noticed as I sit here with a glass of white and my whole ass just out on this hilariously angled garden chair, is that there is a huge distance and separation when it comes to people’s habits online and their habits in real life. (Yes I know that was my first thought was I sat down but, I mean my brain is ridiculous).
The internet has been a place for development, movement and true exploration for minority communities such as the LGBT+ community, and the fact that it unites people from all over the world together to create a safe space is truly one of the best things about the world wide web and its many facets. It creates communities of people who would never have met or bypassed each other potentially on the street, but the connection that they have and continue to create is one of the best products of the millenial generation. The whole notion of a ‘friendship’ is in itself a social construct that has norms and values attributed to it, and making friends online inherently destroys that concept because you could have the same connection with someone on the other side of the world, that you do have with someone who lives on your street, but both relationships are completely valid and beautiful which is AMAZING.
I have recently fallen into a constant debate with myself about the IMPACT of the internet and social media on our generation, and the pro’s and con’s about creating the illusive ‘social mask’. As I have just said, social media is one of the best ways to create lasting and fulfilling relationships and friendships with people, especially for minorities and people who are lonely, isolated or potentially economically challenged.
However, does the idea of making friends online seem easier because you are technically not having to use traditional social skills?
Social interaction is defined as, ‘an exchange between two or more individuals and is a building block of society’. This is still 100% true online, however social skills and the action of socially INTERACTING is completely different due to the environment you’re in. For example, when you’re interacting with people in person, there’s 20491049 different factors that will either consciously or not affect the way that you then present to the other person. Their voice, the way they speak, what they’re wearing, what they’re saying, their eye contact, their body language, all of these things have an affect on the way that we then converse and socially interact with the other people. But, what i’m thinking is, is there an online equivalent to this? What’s the online equivalent to body language? Or eye contact? There isn’t. And this is why our generation are so magical and actually, fucking clever, because we have managed to be the first generation to actually CREATE and thrive through a new form of social interaction. We are iconic, and we did that.
However, is it important to also discuss the ways in which socialisation is DIFFERENT online, compared to the real world (i’m not a huge fan of when people call everyday life ‘the real world’ but… i’ve drawn a blank and literally can’t think of another way to describe it, fucking hell). Creating a ‘profile’ online can be a minefield, and can also come with 2934923 different problems and ways of literally making yourself look ICONIC or confident when you could potentially be not. Is this a bad thing? Is it bad to promote a confident image of yourself when in the ‘real world’, you could be shy or socially anxious? The idea of creating a ‘facade’ is not new, however like all facades, they can only last so long, and they always have an element of truth in them. For example, when socially anxious people make a social media account they can potentially use this social interaction as a way to GROW and THRIVE in an environment that they feel comfortable in, which is a great way for them to learn and then translate what they’re learning and doing into their EVERYDAY life with face to face interaction. The issue that I have when it comes to people using social media to create an IMAGE of themselves, is that fact that it can very easily becoming intoxicating and detrimental to your actual social life and mental health, and here’s why.
People online take things at face value. As humans we can be stupid, and can just see a profile with a HD headshot as a profile picture, a great bio and a lot of followers and IMMEDIATELY elevate these people ABOVE others, just because they have a ‘good looking’ profile. It’s similar to when you see someone in a suit, holding a briefcase BURNING money, you’re like ‘oh ok they MUST be successful because they’re blotting their makup with a £50 note, and they’re wearing a tie”. We are easily fooled and so are our eyes. This can become a real self fulfilling prophecy for the people behind these accounts if what they’ve created isn’t true, because they then are like “oh ok people think that i’m LIKE THIS now, so I have to be like this”. The pressure builds, and people get trapped in a cycle of “ok so everyone’s doing this so I feel like I need to also continue to do this to fit in”, and the facade that you once made to extend your personality, has now become a whole other being that doesn’t have the authenticity that you should have as a human being, potentially leading to your downfall.
Now don’t get me wrong, people who do this and fall victim to the perils of social media are NOT bad people, because the whole NOTION of social media is to gain a following and share your words with as many people as possible. However, as clever intellectuals like we are, we are all aware that the idea and concept of social media is not just a RACE to the 23948923 amount of followers, but to share our lives, our experiences and our ideas of THE WORLD. We need to remember that we are all here to share our lives and the trials and tribulations that we go through that make us LITERAL HUMANS, and that’s more important than trying to get 309 million followers because ? who literally cares ? when you’re dead. Our generation are routinely painted as being narcissistic and fame hungry which again is a generalisation that the media/older generations want to paint to perpetuate our ‘lazy’ lifestyle. We, as literal human beings with brains, are created and grew in a generation where the internet formed around us. We are the children of the technology age, and just as the internet and social media grew, so did we, and so did our perceptions of it and its influences in our everyday lives. We are savvy and we are not naive when it comes to why’s real and what’s not, which has also interestingly lead to a potential scare for social media bloggers and influencers who once preyed on our naivety.
We KNOW that most people filter and tune their photos to within an inch of their lives, and if you want to do that, honey you do it. Have conviction. We KNOW that people are paid ridiculous amounts of money to promote products that they may have not even tried. We KNOW that it’s not all about growth and promotion and likes and retweets.
LGBT+ people are a prime example of a great group of human beings who have used social media to expand their horizons and create connections that they can’t find in their immediate communities or families. As mama Ru says, we get to CHOOSE our family, and as LGBT+ people the power of the internet allows us to connect and rejoice as a community that is continually fighting for equality. It can literally be a LIFELINE for people in small, closed minded areas of the world. An example of the hope and love that they themselves have that they want to share with the world, but can’t. Governments, family, abuse, poverty and bigotry all can prevent people from being able to accept who they are, and the use of social media can help irradiate this feeling of hopelessness and loneliness that so many LGBT+ people feel.
We are constantly growing, and evolving, and learning how to challenge ourselves to create better versions of ourselves, and realising that social media and the phenomenon of influencer culture ISN’T the be all and end all of life is something that can leave you feeling like a weight has been lifted and that you can finally begin to use social media as a true and authentic extension of well… YOU. Just be kind, be truthful, be honest, and be yourselves online and remember that you have integrity as human beings, and you should always use your platforms to better the world that we live in, whether it’s online or not. Online interactions have real life consequences.
All the love,