Sunday, 21 February 2016

FEBRUARY : PERSONA




The internet is such a fabulous place to create your own little legacy. Leaving your mark on the
web has an essence of permanence to it- you can upload a selfie, and years down the line it
could appear on a Google image search of your name. You are a product, and your online
activity is often the primary way in which others perceive you. It’s quite a scary thought that
something we often consider as mundane and fairly harmless can impact the way we are
perceived, and it is a topic that is discussed often.
Managing your online content is something usually associated with businesses, or perhaps with
big personalities and celebrities, but is in fact something that I think 
everybody should be aware of. I have always been somewhat thoughtless with my own online
presence, and generally quite careless when it came to personal security. With this in mind; I
took it upon myself to do a little exercise finding all of the skeletons in my own closet, and I
struck gold. I found a Myspace account that I had set up when I was around 15. There were no
privacy settings, thus granting public access to around 300+ photos of myself and my friends. All
in all, it was pretty embarrassing and I genuinely had forgotten about its existence. Digging a
little more, I found that a bunch of my chummies had kept their profiles too, and I was able to
skim through all of their personal images without any hassle. It was a blast from the past for
me, but there really is something about photographs of underage drinking that just don’t seem
all that appealing to future employers. 

Obviously when I was that age, I didn't think twice about uploading a selfie or sharing my
address, because as far as I could comprehend, online profiles were only used for keeping up-to
date and chatting with friends. Obviously, the internet has come a long way with our entire
world pretty much revolving around online communication. As a young teenager, I was barely
thinking about what dinner that night was going to be, never mind how my online activity could
affect my future career. I hope that kids these days are far more clued in to the dangers of
sharing online and privacy settings; but as a twenty-something who had no education on the
subject, I am now having to follow my online story back to its beginnings to fix silly mistakes.

Now, to look at my social media sharing habits in 2016. I deleted my Facebook profile in 2015
after finding that many of my online connections were with people I barely knew. By doing so, I
was restricting public access to a lot of cringe-worthy photos and private information. When I
decided to sign up again, (because running a blog is fairly difficult without one), I decided to
keep my friendship connections to only people I know in real life (rather than drunken new
friendship requests from girls I meet in bar toilets) and all of my settings kept private. Ideally, I
wouldn't have an account, and maybe down the line I won't - I think a lot of people are alike in
thinking this.

On to Twitter- my account is a very different story as it is regularly updated with little thought
to privacy. Now, a wise man once told me that I should only ever make decisions in life based on
what my mother would think of me. That man was my dad, and I know for a fact he would be
less impressed by my 3am deep thoughts about Miley and Liam's relationship than my mother
would (but seriously, are they, or aren't they?). But as it turned out my mother had already been
reading about my hangover blues, pet peeves, and Daniel Bedingfield obsession after signing up
to receive text alerts of each and every tweet. She thinks I'm a wee weirdo, and rightly so. I
should probably delete this platform from my life as it acts as nothing more than a shit talkin'
station for me, making it infuriating to read back on months later. But then again, it is a sweet
platform to connect to readers and chums. Forever torn.

And then there is my favourite platform of all, Instagram.  It is pretty fun and has brought so
many of my friends together, as well as connecting me with new faces. Again my profile is
public, but is used exclusively for self-promotion and advocates a certain persona. I'm not 100%
sure just what sort of character is reflected through my feed as it features a lady who is forever
changing her hairstyle and colour, playing dress up with her friends, along with various material
items- saucy lingerie, art and fancy soap; all that good stuff. It's strange to try and represent
the truest version of myself through my online activity, (because believe it or not- I am more
than just a tea-drinking cat-mama), but we all create a persona that shows off our greatest
attributes to become more appealing. Does this make our online activity less authentic? In a
way, yes. Is it a terrible trait of the human race to want to beguile others a little into seeing
their best side? Of course not!

Many women follow celebrities, or "it" girls on social media, and are exposed to images that
display the most flawless skin, beautiful nails, designer handbags and ostentatious adventures.
We all want this kind of beautiful lifestyle. I mean, look at the popularity that artist, Amalia
Ulman, gained from her superficial Instagram account that perfectly depicted the lifestyle of a
lavish millionaire. But imagine if the "it" girls were instead  to show us all the depressing and
less desirable aspects of their lives on social media? Would our online habits change, or would
we still be living through our perfect virtual personas? Can anyone truly and authentically
upload their life online without being labelled a show off when they are doing well? Or as an
attention seeker when they’re uploading some of their less appealing moments? At the end of
the day; most people don't exactly live up to their online character. They aren't always spot
free with perfect make-up and hair, and that is why I love Snapchat. 

The immediacy of Snapchat means that quite often very little thought has gone into your
content (if it can be described as such). Not as much preening, or posing, or perfectly executed
pouting. Just your own silly thoughts in that brief glimpse; usually accompanied by utterly
repugnant faces. There's so much to be said for a platform that gives life to those little snaps of
social media time when we're not trying so hard.

I don't envy growing up in a digital age. It's hard enough navigating the ups-and-downs of
adolescence, and I can only imagine the pressure that is felt by younger people to portray a
perfect lifestyle online. The thing is- everyone knows it's OK to feel shit every once in a while.
Nobody is 100% perfect, all of the time. It just doesn't happen. And to be honest, that would be
pretty fucking boring anyway.  It’s only through casting light on the greater shade-by talking
about our less-than-perfect moments- that we can create an open and non-judgemental
environment for everyone online.  

Be careful, or carefree of your image. Be yourself or a persona, it's up to you. But whatever you
do, don't become screwed by the followers and figures. Just because a person has millions of
followers, does not mean that they make better contributions to society, nor that they are a
decent person. Just because your photo doesn't reach that glorious 11 likes, whilst others
somehow manage to get hundreds of likes for a photo of a candle, doesn't mean a thing.
Obviously when running a blog or business, more likes means progress and is obviously a good
thing, but in real life, it's important to not get caught up in the online popularity contest. It
would be great to know the real you, but the most important thing is to have fun and make the
most of the hours you spend in front of a screen doing something at least a little worth while.

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