Our Online Identity: What’s Real and What’s Not?

Jason Miller’s article, Facebook- Our ffriendly automated identity bender raised a lot of questions for me. I have always been very aware of the fact the people choose what to post on social media, creating an “edited version” of who we want to portray that we are. However, I was not aware that facebook uses algorithms to determine what shows on your news feed, and more importantly who sees what you post on their news feed. I think back to the many times a day I scroll through my news feed, thinking that I am in control of the information I am taking in. But am I in control? It seems not…

“Facebook’s algorithms are making decisions about what kind of person you appear to be to your ffriends.”

For me, the scariest part of all this is how vulnerable many young people can be and not realize that everything they see on social media is not reality. I had a very difficult time ready the article about Madison Holleran. It broke my heart to see this beautiful young girl struggle with depression. But it was also difficult to hear how influenced she was by the image she saw of other people on instagram. She was not able to recognize that what is posted on instagram is an edited version of somebody’s reality and this caused her to have unrealistic expectations for herself and her happiness.

How many other young people are looking on social media having their self-esteem destroyed because they do not have the ability to recognize that not everybody’s life is as perfect as they portray on social media. This quote from the article sums it up perfectly:

“Everyone presents an edited version of life on social media. People share moments that reflect an ideal life, an ideal self.”

Something that really hit home for me was when they compared looking at someone’s instagram to looking at a fashion magazine. Just as those photos are touched and edited, so are the ones our friends post. But we don’t see it that way, we see it as their reality. I am very passionate about educating young people about being critical when they look at media and advertisements and recognizing that the image is not real. But it never crossed my mind to relate it to their own lives and the images they see on social media. It was an “aha” moment for me.


5 thoughts on “Our Online Identity: What’s Real and What’s Not?

  1. andyforeman21 says:

    Amy, like you I was aware of the filtered projections many people cast on social media about who they are and what they do, but I also wasn’t aware of facebooks algorithms until quite recently. You bring up the point about relating discussion in terms of self image to students using social media and I think that’s a really relevant medium to use when having those discussions with students.


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