The advent of #Social media has allowed people in modern society to create a new idea of what would traditionally be referred to as “materialism”. Formerly this term would be used to refer to physical possessions and an investment in these possessions that provides people with a positive outlook on their own self-worth. What websites like #Facebook, Twitter and even personal blogs or online groups let people do now is create an environment that the world now sees them in, and often this environment is made up of ideologies and tenets that form an “ideal self”.
This ideal self, or ego ideal as it was originally termed by Sigmund Freud in 1914, is an inner character which has attributes that we aspire to possess. Freud described how as we mature this ego ideal is often projected when forming relationships in that the people that we seek will be perceived to have those qualities that we seek and then when becoming part of groups this group mentality will be used when self-observing rather than the ego ideal. What was key about Freud’s interpretation was that all of this behaviour was internal except when forming personal relationships, and that otherwise this idea was uniquely ours and could not be seen by anyone else. Freud eventually developed this idea to refer to a part of the “superego” which is the construct which maintain our in-built cultural rules.
The difference today is that the ideal self is no longer a personal construction; it is now on show for everyone to see. Take a look at anyone’s Facebook page, Pinterest account or blog re-post and all you are seeing is that person’s ideal self. This isn’t to say that everything which people post online is merely for show and an attempt to disguise an otherwise mundane lifestyle, but that it is separate from the lives we actually lead and experience on a day to day basis. This idealised version is completely insurmountable to everyone who creates it. It doesn’t have to pay bills, drive to work or visit its parents, and even if it does do these things it is only as a result of our permission and desire for our peers to catch a glimpse at the trivial nature of an otherwise interesting life.
Back in 1976, Wells and Marwell found that discrepancies between the perception we have of ourselves and the idealised perception can lead to low self-esteem. The closer together these two constructs are the more confident a person will feel, and likewise if the person they would like to view themselves as is very different from the reality, this will leave them feeling unfulfilled and low. With this in mind it is no wonder that a recent study by researchers from the University of Houston and Palo Alto University found that increased profile access on Facebook is linked to an increase in depressive symptoms. By reinforcing this exterior people become more aware of the subtle differences between the self that other people see and the one whose life they are living.
Social media acts as a filter from us to the rest of the world, only showcasing the aspects that we as universal adjudicators deem worthy of being seen by other people. The only problem is that now we are left with all the other dilemmas and questions that we were too afraid or too cautious to put out there, and the fact that we have to deal with it on our own is why people who use social media can end up feeling socially isolated.
The superego as we knew it will never be the same again. #Internet