This is a little messy but hey at least I’ve made some progress.

The following are some questions, conversations between my sources, and random ideas that I have brought together for my paper. A very rough skeleton of the ideas I want my inquiry project to explore.

Ideas:

Exhibitionism – How people choose to use social media to show off themselves

How social media sites are used to satisfy psychological needs and the negative effects of this

Fame as something no longer reserved for celebrity

Social Media

  • Why it appeals to people
  • How it is changing the way people perceive themselves
  • The mental health effects of this

Social Media as a venue that encourages self disclosure

On her blog, danah boyd discusses how fame is something that restricts people and causes them to live their lives as a constant performance. this is because, as discussed in “mirrors and megaphones,” “SNS offer users near complete control over self-presentations, making them a useful venue for the deployment of strategic interpersonal behaviors that narcissists use to construct and maintain a carefully considered self-image (Morf & Rhodewalt, 2001). They provide users with abundant ways to interact, whether in private or public, individually or collectively. Individuals who value their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences (collectively referred to hereafter as “self-expressions”) highly and who anticipate others’ high levels of interest in their self-expressions can publicize them to a wide audience.” In case studies such as that of instagram star Essena O’Neill, the fame gained from social media becomes addicting and results in a reliance on social media for happiness and a severe sense of cognitive dissonance.

Why do people become addicted to social media/ find joy in self disclosure? 

Some studies work to study why people use Facebook for self-disclosure. Self disclosure is defined as “sharing with someone information which helps him or her understand you.” In TIME Magazine, journalist Matt Peckham explains how groups of scientists at Harvard have studied self disclosure and found that it activate the same “primary rewards center” of our brains that food and sex do. These researchers also found that 80% of social media posts to websites such as Facebook and twitter amount to “announcements about one’s own immediate experiences”

“Intriguingly, the researchers noted a distinction between types of self-disclosure: introspection, or privately thinking about oneself, compared with having the opportunity to share those thoughts with another human being. Again, as expected, while introspection was itself sufficient to light up brain regions associated with reward, the effects were “magnified” when participants believed their thoughts would be communicated to someone else.”

The scientists behind the study “The Facebook Self”: Characteristics and psychological predictors of false-presentation on facebook” would add to this conversation the fact that because people receive pleasure from connections and self disclosure on facebook, people who  have low self esteem can “improve their psychological well being” and become addicted to social media. The researchers go on to posit that addiction is not the only problem behind users actions on facebook, but that the website is ultimately dangerous because it promotes false presentation of the self which “can ultimately lead to reduced well being and promote various psychological pathologies.”The happiness gained from self disclosure on Facebook is actually quite paradoxical seeing as, as explained in Jessica Winter’s ‘Slate’ article, two german universities showed that “passive following on face book triggers states of envy and resentment in many users.” This envy and resentment results in users feeling an even bigger initiative to show off their own lives in attempt to feel “even” and “at the same happiness level” as their friends or followers.

Performance on social media. Can authentic social media exist?

In his study on “The Presentation of Self in the Age of Social Media,” Bernie Hogan talks about “Goffman’s Dramaturgy” to explain how individuals present themselves on social media. Goffman’s Dramaturgy is “a metaphorical technique used to explain how an individual presents an idealized rather than an authentic version of themself. The metaphor considers life as a stage for activity where individuals engage in performances. As boyd discusses, social network sites are designed to allow individuals to make connections and show themselves off, thus websites such as Facebook are the perfect medium or “stage.” Because Facebook puts users in situations where there is a constant audience, everything is a presentation, leading some researchers such as blogger Nathan Burke and myself to ask “is being authentic online even possible?” Blogger Kate Carroll De Gutes discusses this question on her blog and talks about how social media sites cultivate environments where users feel obliged to only share the positive events in their lives and ignore anything negative or dark. When people do feel the desire to post how they really feel, they often feel shamed and choose not to do so because they don’t want to seem annoying, needy, or like they are desperate for attention.

Increases in Narcissism and Decreases in Empathy due to Social Media

In the article Mirrors to Megaphones, the writer talks about how “In fact, cross-temporal meta-analyses of narcissism and empathy levels among college students over the past three decades have found decreases in empathic concern (i.e., sympathy for the misfortunes of others) along with increases in narcissism (Konrath et al., 2011 and Twenge et al., 2008). Though these trends pre-date the popularization of SNS, the rate of decline in empathic concern has accelerated since 2000 (Konrath, O’Brien, & Hsing, 2011), prompting researchers to speculate that the rise of SNS may have enabled narcissistic individuals to seek veneration on a grander scale than would otherwise be feasible (Konrath, O’Brien, & Hsing, 2011).”

“Given that narcissism is associated with the use of personal interaction as a means for self-enhancement and self-promotion (Wallace & Baumeister, 2002), various attributes of SNS make them seem like an ideal tool for achieving these narcissistic goals. SNS offer users near complete control over self-presentations, making them a useful venue for the deployment of strategic interpersonal behaviors that narcissists use to construct and maintain a carefully considered self-image (Morf & Rhodewalt, 2001). They provide users with abundant ways to interact, whether in private or public, individually or collectively. Individuals who value their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences (collectively referred to hereafter as “self-expressions”) highly and who anticipate others’ high levels of interest in their self-expressions can publicize them to a wide audience. SNS allow users to dwell on past self-expressions as well as the popularity of those self-expressions manifested in various metrics such as “likes” or “shares” in the case of Facebook and “followers” or “re-tweets” in the case of Twitter. Facebook, in particular, can be an ideal tool for self-promotion as users can frequently post status updates, comments or photos of themselves and reasonably expect timely and frequent positive feedback. Moreover, given the rise of SNS use on mobile devices, SNS are accessible at all times and in all places. Narcissists need not wait until others are available to engage in self-aggrandizement”

The Dreamers:

Vannevar Bush – At the very end of his essay, Bush writes; “Presumably man’s spirit should be elevated if he can better review his shady past and analyze more completely and objectively his present problems. He has built a civilization so complex that he needs to mechanize his records more fully if he is to push his experiment to its logical conclusion and not merely become bogged down part way there by overtaxing his limited memory. His excursions may be more enjoyable if he can reacquire the privilege of forgetting the manifold things he does not need to have immediately at hand, with some assurance that he can find them again if they prove important.”

This statement is interesting to me because it contradicts with one of of the main points/arguments of my paper which is that social media + the ability of humans to constantly record their lives is detrimental because it encourages narcissism, an obsession with aesthetics, and a formation of a false self. He states that things might be more enjoyable if mean had the ability to forget them because they are on the record, but I’ve found that in reality, social media causes people to forget everything except for the poised and captured moments which they display on their sites. The existence of social media has made people obsess over the idea of recording everything, constantly updating people about their days, and constantly taking and uploading pictures.

 

Ted Nelson – In Computer Lib/Dream Machines, Nelson Writes; “Many think, indeed, that we live in a world of false images promulgated by “media,” a situation to be corrected. But this is a misunderstanding. Many images are false or puffy, all right, but it is incorrect to suppose that there is any alternative. Media have evolved from simpler forms, and convey the background ideas of our time, as well as the fads. Media today focus the impressions and ideas that in previous eras were conveyed by rituals, public gatherings, decrees, parades, behavior in public, mummer’ troupes . . . but actually every culture is a world of images. The chieftain in his palanquin, the shaman with his feathers and rattle, are telling us something about themselves and about the continuity of the society and position of the individuals in it …”Media,” or structured transmission mechanisms, cannot help being personalized by those who run them. (Like everything else.)

Nelson’s disagreement with the idea that media is entity which promotes and consists of false images is highly relevant to my paper. This is interesting because until now, I never really thought of anything in his essay being applicable in my paper. When Nelson says that Media focuses on the impressions and ideas that previous eras conveyed through real life human contact, he provides some insight to why social media is so attractive to humans. In nelson’s view, social media could is addicting to humans because it provides a new way to engage in processes which humans have carried out for all of history. The  scary part is that if Nelson’s argument that media tells us something about the individuals in our culture is applied to today’s world, then that, based on social media and the way it is used,  we are living in a world of narcissists and shallow people who are obsessed with hearing their own voices and receiving validation for their lives.