To gain better understanding of how my peer group use and view social media I asked them a series of questions regarding their personal use of sites such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
First of all I spoke to a group of four girls who explained that they viewed Facebook as a relatively genuine portrayal of them, a social site where they would share funny articles or videos, keep in touch with members of their direct social circle and share photos of personal events such as holidays or their artwork. They explained that for most of them they are connected to their family on Facebook which also influences them to post things that are more genuine and less likely to receive negative judgements.
In contrast they described Instagram as more competitive and ‘posey’, used for sharing snapshots of events they have been to or things they have bought. They said that they were more concerned with the attention something gets on Instagram, i.e. how many likes it gets. They also remarked that if they were feeling insecure about their looks they would post a selfie on Instagram for a confidence boost, but that they would remove a post if it didn’t get a lot of likes.
When I asked about how they used Twitter they explained that this would be where they would follow news and events, updates from celebrities, and told me that their posts were likely to be humorous remarks or a platform to vent anger about something. It is easier for a post to gain attention on Twitter because of it’s open, global nature so in this context it is more about trying to make people laugh or talk about things they can relate to.
I then asked two male peers. They agreed with the observations about Facebook and Twitter but gave very different explanations of their use of Instagram. They both said that they use it to post artistic photographs or pictures of their artwork and very rarely include anything personal, abstaining completely from selfies. Their explanation for this was that they felt that people would be far more interested in their work than their lives or looks. I asked if they felt this was influenced by their gender. They replied that they didn’t feel that this was the reason why but after this suggestion did observe that it was less common for guys to post selfies or things relating to their personal life and that may have influenced them indirectly.
To summarise the responses it would seem that Facebook is a platform for communication where your image is less polished and formal and likely to be more in line with who you are ‘in real life’, due in part to the detail provided in your profile. People use it to share updates, life events and how they’re feeling.
Instagram appears to be more aspirational, geared up to people making posts that reflect who they want to be, or want others to think they are. There is more opportunity for greater control over how you are perceived. If a profile is public then anyone can view your posts and follow you, forming their own opinion about you and your life governed only by what you choose to share. For this reason it’s easy to see how someone could project a false image of themself online.
The most interesting observation from this discussion was the fact that despite all of the people I asked being users of social media they all remarked that they wished it didn’t exist and wasn’t such a big part of their lives.
It seems as though there is a pressure to be involved in this virtual extension of our lives and personalities but that it can easily start to introduce pressure and stress into peoples lives and they end up reluctantly trapped in the practise.