Using social media we have the ability to promote ourselves to a large audience, just as an advertiser would a brand or product. To a large extent we are able to control the image or persona we portray by selecting images and interacting with others in a way that projects an idealised version of ourselves.
Most people have a persona that they wish the world to see as ‘them’, this ideal-self a reflection of the success they have achieved, and the lifestyle that they have attained. The dangers of using social media in an in-authentic way are no different to living your day-to-day life without authenticity.
An incorrect representation on social media, or at the very least ‘inflated; version of our lives does not help with the comparison trap that many of us fall into where we measure ourselves against these unrealistic standards, reinforcing feelings that ‘we are not enough’ which can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction and depression.
Self Awareness behind the mask
By projecting an ideal or altered version of ourselves, we are at risk of becoming ‘life performers’, playing ourselves as a character, the ‘ideal self’ the mask of choice worn to portray the role.
We hide our authentic selves from others out of fear that we will be deemed unacceptable. The result is that the relationships we form are often shallow and without real connection. True intimacy can only develop when these masks are removed and the genuine person – with their hopes, fears, needs and inadequacies becomes known.
For some people there can be a dramatic difference between the face that they present to others and the self that they themselves experience within. Obviously the more disparity between these two aspects of self, the more emotional energy must be spent maintaining the illusion, for fear of others discovering who we really are. Anxiety is usually involved and this may be felt on a conscious level or, for a less-aware person, may be felt as a lack of emotional energy or a loss of creative motivation.
It is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to establish intimate relationships if we persist in mask-wearing. It is the same as asking someone to form a relationship with a fictional character.
What is your Mask?
EXERCISE: Draw your mask (taken from In Pursuit of Awareness (Skeates & Fabrin 2010)
1. Draw your mask that you wear when you are in a group or with other people.
2. What/who do you pretend to be?
3. What kind of expression is on your face?
4. What kind of effect do you want to have on others?
5. Where did that mask come from?
6. How long have you had it?
7. Do you consciously put it on, or does it come on automatically?
8. Draw the self under the mask.
9. How do you feel about that self?
10. What kind of a self is it?
11. Is there a different voice from your usual voice that goes with the mask?
12. What is it like for you to see both of your faces?
13. What are you becoming aware of?
A question remains at the end of this exercise…”What do I do now with this new found awareness about myself?”
How do we find Self-acceptance behind the mask?
Self-acceptance eludes us until the ‘imposter’ is acknowledged and accepted. If we allow the kind and compassionate observer of self to connect with the hidden self, rather than the harsh critic, then healing can start to happen. The gap between your projected self and your ‘true’ self can then begin to shrink.
When you use social media, ask yourself:
1. Do I really care about this?
2. Have I given this my complete attention?
3. Would I share this with someone sitting next to me?
4. What response am I wanting from people?
5. What am I contributing with this post?
6. Would this post irritate me if I was reading it from someone else?
7. Does this post reflect my values?
If this article has brought up any feelings for you and you would like to talk with someone, please get in touch.