The advent of Social media has allowed people in modernsociety 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 aninvestment in these possessions that provides people with a positive outlook ontheir own self-worth. What websites like Facebook, Twitter and even personalblogs or online groups let people do now is create an environment that theworld now sees them in, and often this environment is made up of ideologies andtenets that form an “ideal self”.

This ideal self, or ego ideal as it was originally termed bySigmund Freud in 1914, is an inner character which has attributes that weaspire to possess. Freud described how as we mature this ego ideal is oftenprojected when forming relationships in that the people that we seek will beperceived to have those qualities that we seek and then when becoming part ofgroups this group mentality will be used when self-observing rather than theego ideal. What was key about Freud’s interpretation was that all of thisbehaviour was internal except when forming personal relationships, and thatotherwise 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” whichis the construct which maintain our in-built cultural rules.

The difference today is that the ideal self is no longer apersonal construction; it is now on show for everyone to see. Take a look atanyone’s Facebook page, Pinterest account or blog re-post and all you areseeing is that person’s ideal self. This isn’t to say that everything which peoplepost online is merely for show and an attempt to disguise an otherwise mundanelifestyle, but that it is separate from the lives we actually lead andexperience on a day to day basis.

This idealised version is completelyinsurmountable to everyone who creates it. It doesn’t have to pay bills, driveto work or visit its parents, and even if it does do these things it is only asa result of our permission and desire for our peers to catch a glimpse at thetrivial nature of an otherwise interesting life.

Back in 1976, Wells and Marwell found that discrepanciesbetween the perception we have of ourselves and the idealised perception canlead to low self-esteem.

The closer together these two constructs are the moreconfident a person will feel, and likewise if the person they would like toview themselves as is very different from the reality, this will leave themfeeling unfulfilled and low. With this in mind it is no wonder that a recentstudy by researchers from the University of Houston and Palo Alto Universityfound that increased profile access on Facebook is linked to an increase indepressive symptoms. By reinforcing this exterior people become more aware ofthe subtle differences between the self that other people see and the one whoselife they are living.

Social media acts as a filter from us to the rest of theworld, only showcasing the aspects that we as universal adjudicators deemworthy of being seen by other people.

The only problem is that now we are leftwith all the other dilemmas and questions that we were too afraid or toocautious to put out there, and the fact that we have to deal with it on our ownis why people who use social media can end up feeling socially isolated.

The superego as we knew it will never be the same again.