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In a time when we experience our reality through both the online and the offline worlds; what we pick and choose to portray of ourselves in both worlds may differ. Social media helps us explore and experiment with our online sense of self in order to determine what parts of our self is safe enough to portray in front of others. How we act in the online world is mainly affected by the disinhibition effect (Suler, 2000) in which we become less inhibited through online methods of expression. It is also documented that there is an inverse relationship between the length of time spent on social media and our mental health. If a significant difference exists between what we choose to portray of ourselves in relation to both online or offline worlds, then this could create dissonance within the individual.

 

This dissonance may be confusing as the expressions of both online and offline selves are not complementary to each other. It’s also worth noting the culture within which social media exists. What I am referring to as the culture which is surrounded by social media, I am referring to the fact that it is created by like minded others who conform to a set of standards. These standards state – ‘what content is okay’ to post and ‘what content is not okay to post’ on these social media platforms. With the current mantra that the human being should always strive towards happiness. It’s no wonder then, that social media is promoting socially desirable; expressions, qualities of the self, experiences with others, objects, and/or expressions. However no one said that it can never be challenged!

 

To illustrate I decided to present the following scenario – If in the online world we exhibit a persona who is constantly portraying oneself as positive, full of life and experiences frequent positive experiences. Therefore this individual is conditioning oneself by  striving to experience constant positivity. This is because this is the message the individual is trying to convey to others and make oneself believe. The individual is also influencing the culture within social media. In which others learn to accept these type of posts and seek out these posts. Therefore these posts might start to condition others in which like minded individual will post similar posts on their social media platforms. Thus a vicious cycle is created.

 

Check out part 2 of this blog!

 

 

 

Karl Grech is a counsellor. He offers counselling to both individuals and couples within Willingness. He can be contacted on karl@willingness.com.mt or call us on 79291817.