Welcome to the internet. A place where anything is possible, anonymity rules the comment boards, and a carefully crafted self-image can turn you into the next social influencer everyone wants to be! Well, at least for ten minutes. The world moves fast, but with fiber optic connection the internet now moves, literally, at lightspeed. (No, that is not just a term used in cheesy Sci-Fi movies and yes, thank you science). Now we can all enjoy our memes in high-res, the way God intended. World peace can wait.
Naturally, being the arrogant and sinful creatures we are, social media has created a self-indulgent oasis for self-expression. I know what you’re thinking. Social media was created to connect people! While that is true, most people have forgotten their cameras turn the other way since Robert Cornelius took the first self-portrait in 1839. Though, Paris Hilton would later take credit for creating the selfie in 2006. Since nobody remembers Paris Hilton, or 2006 for that matter, we may never know the origin. Folklore says that the selfie lives within the human spirit’s desire to be seen. Regardless, it has become the cultural norm we know of today.
In many ways, the internet has allowed us to discover ourselves, create an identity, and connect with others who share similar interests. For the minority, and less socially inclined it has enabled people to become someone they’re not (e.g. Catfish and Identity Thieves). No matter the intentions of our online presentation, it is just that. The internet provides a safe buffer for us to safely comb out the unwanted parts and accidental farts we don’t want publicly displayed. In other words, we can portray the ideal versions of ourselves to our followers. I know that I can’t be the only one losing sleep trying to tweet what the people want.
“Likes” have become a means of character validation, a social currency. When I have them, I’m on top of the world! When I don’t, I might as well be thrown in a medieval pillory to be publicly shamed with rotten eggs and tomatoes. It’s an egregious feeling I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. Unless, of course, it scored me some likes.
Our need to be accepted by our peers is exacerbated by the high-speed demand and chaos of the internet. We create online aliases or alter egos to portray a “better” version of ourselves to confound our insecurities and perceived faults. We curtail our posts and responses to meet the illusory image of ourselves we hope to become. We need a new internet culture, one that doesn’t prey on our weaknesses and fears.
A Call to Action
Let me clarify. The internet is not a corrupt place filled with disingenuous and heartless people. Well, YouTube comment threads are, but that’s another monster. No, people are wonderful and capable of beautiful art, insight, and compassion. There is nothing wrong with self-promotion, so long as it’s orchestrated in a tasteful manner. Everyone wants recognition, but we shouldn’t be searching for it in an empty room of self-glorification.
Instead, it’s time we celebrate our differences and strive for authenticity. Our unique qualities as individuals are what set us apart from the pack. We need to evolve from a society that looks to receive the best reaction, to one that aims to make the greatest effect. Influencing culture doesn’t start by staying hip and chasing relevant trends. It begins by making ripples in the reflection of culture. Simply by staying true to yourself and supporting others who share the same raw vulnerability will influence the way society conducts itself. Be yourself. After all, if your “self-promotion” isn’t promoting you, then who is it promoting?
By being real and supporting genuine content, we can decrease shallow, self-glorifying internet culture, and revolutionize online sincerity.