The Impact of Social Media on Identity and Authenticity


Hatched by Glasp

Jul 16, 2023

3 min read


The Impact of Social Media on Identity and Authenticity

In the age of social media, our lives have become increasingly intertwined with the digital world. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok have transformed the way we communicate, express ourselves, and construct our identities. But with this shift comes a question: Are we truly being authentic, or are we performing for an audience?

One of the most prominent platforms that exemplifies this phenomenon is Twitter. In 2010, an article titled "I Tweet, Therefore I Am" highlighted the way Twitter shaped the author's perception of themselves. The constant need to package their experiences and share them with others created a sense of self-consciousness and a desire for validation. The author questioned whether they were shaping their Twitter feed or if Twitter was shaping them.

This idea of performance culture and the curated self is not new. In the 1950s, sociologist Erving Goffman argued that all of life is a performance. With the expansion of our digital universe, this performance has become more pervasive. Young people, in particular, are manufacturing their identities based on external influences and public opinion. The line between the authentic self and the contrived self becomes blurred.

The allure of platforms like TikTok lies in their potential for connection and self-expression. However, when every thought is externalized and shared with others, it raises questions about the value of insight and reflection. Social media encourages us to focus on the reaction of others rather than our own impressions. It can erode the very relationships it aims to create and alienate us from our own humanity.

But how does a platform like TikTok, created by two individuals in Shanghai, manage to captivate a culture so different from its origins? The answer lies in its algorithm. Bytedance, the company behind TikTok, invested heavily in user acquisition and developed a powerful algorithm that connected videos with their destined audiences. The algorithm acted as a market maker, allowing disparate groups to find each other quickly and branch off into their own spaces.

TikTok's algorithm differs from other social networks in its focus on interest rather than social connections. While platforms like Twitter and Facebook rely on follower graphs, TikTok's algorithm assembles an interest graph based on users' consumption patterns. This passive personalization allows for efficient content distribution without imposing a burden on the user.

However, the success of TikTok's algorithm raises concerns about privacy and the manipulation of user interests. As other companies try to emulate TikTok's success, the line between personalization and targeted advertising becomes increasingly blurred. The challenge lies in finding the right balance between providing users with a personalized experience and respecting their privacy.

In conclusion, social media has undoubtedly had a profound impact on our identities and the way we interact with others. The performance culture that permeates these platforms raises questions about authenticity and the erosion of genuine relationships. However, platforms like TikTok have shown that algorithms can facilitate connection and create interest-based communities. As we navigate the digital landscape, it is crucial to find a balance between self-expression and maintaining our humanity.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Reflect on your social media usage: Take a step back and evaluate how much of your online presence is a performance for others. Are you shaping your digital persona based on external validation, or are you staying true to your authentic self?
  • 2. Set boundaries for social media usage: It's easy to get caught up in the constant need for validation and connection. Set specific times for social media engagement and prioritize real-life interactions and self-reflection.
  • 3. Be mindful of privacy and personalization: As algorithms become more sophisticated, be aware of the data you are sharing and how it may be used to manipulate your interests. Take control of your privacy settings and stay informed about the platforms you use.

In the end, social media can be a powerful tool for self-expression and connection. By being mindful of our usage, setting boundaries, and prioritizing authenticity, we can navigate these platforms while maintaining our humanity.

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