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The Unconscious Visual Lie ­­­— Why do we really use social media?

Thursday، 08 August 2019 12:18 AM



By Sanah Thakur


Sharing of knowledgeable links, quick status updates and photographs of our lives provide a peek through the window of one’s life. They make us look more worldly, intellectual, attractive and fun than the reality actually is and you know this!
However, I’m not going to be a hypocrite. I am caught in the web too. I can see ‘the visual lie’ manifest in front of me with more clarity. The longer I engage, the duller my eyesight becomes, desensitised to the glut of information that makes our decision making more automatic and unconscious by the second.
I’ve put out positive statements to share my infectiously supportive nature; even though minutes prior I was probably annoyed by someone or something which compelled me to air my frustration, but I didn’t say that; and even more frustrated at the lack of likes or comments that validate my perspective with other individuals choosing to interact. It’s like starting a conversation at a table of friends and everybody getting up to leave at the same time.
And for those people who do post about negative aspects of their day, there tends to be a paradoxical underlying thread that displays them as an assertive individual who won’t stand for this kind of intrusion on their positive path. It’s rarely an expression of the vulnerability that the majority of the world experiences in their daily interactions. Some people are completely lost; and have no idea of which direction to turn but that is hardly ever conveyed. It’s probably more a cry for help than a declaration of independence.
Our social lives are displayed through the deluge of photographs of exciting travelling, holidays and nights out. However, when I speak to my friends and colleagues about the amazing events that I missed out on, expecting to be marvelled like a young child hearing their favourite bedtime fairytale, the narrative rarely matches the cinematography they projected in their perfectly framed photographs. And on the occasions where the documenting did in fact match the hype, people rarely talk about the often experienced emotional and mental ‘crashes’. They just hide this with a feigned self-deprecating meme, usually with the title ‘take me back’ or some other synonym. 
Pictures of ourselves are always the best! You don’t look like that, and neither do I. Sometimes I don’t even recognise you. However, we reinforce the behaviour of our friends and followers with polite comments and euphemisms. So, we are encouraged to beat the last edited or (even more professionally, photoshopped), picture of ourselves — or at least match the previous one.
How can we ask people to be themselves with us, if we cannot even be ourselves with ourselves? Again, I am not preaching to anyone, it’s just an observation and it is backed up by statistics from a recent survey by LEWIS (2015) that 51% of men and 67% of women edit pictures they post online to remove wrinkles, whiten teeth, remove facial blemishes and other edits. Does this extend to only putting photographs of our homes online when it is in pristine condition? Using profile pictures from a long time ago when we looked younger, slimmer or more attractive? Finding the truth online is becoming a more difficult task day by day. When was the last time you ‘checked in’ at work, at Subway for lunch or the supermarket as opposed to at the airport, on the beach or in the most exclusive nightspot? We don’t even know what is everyday real or not anymore.
How can we chastise people for not taking us as we are when the last time you appeared as you are was probably when your parents were still choosing your clothes – and even that is questionable? Most people are aware of what I am saying, A lot of people remember a time before social media, but when society comes to a point where all users of social media have been ‘born’ into the age, there WILL BE NO ACTUAL COMPARISON apart from a few anecdotes consigned to the history books.
There’s no turning around with this realisation, but there’s definitely space to think and perhaps be more aware of our social media habits.

* The author can be contacted on Instagram @sincerelysanah

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