Sunday, 28 June 2015

知觉 | A different perspective

Posted by: Dom Lowth

A few weeks ago I received an email from someone who had read my post ‘This isn’t really me’. It was the first email I’d been sent by a thunk reader (so it was pretty exciting), but what they had to say made me think again completely about what I’d written.

“I read your blog about the internet and how we pretend to be someone we are not… But it made me think, isn't that the whole point of social media? The anonymity and everything? Because sometimes you need to get away from the persona you carry in your real life… The person you act like in your real life is often not who you actually are. And that's where the internet comes in. From what I've experienced so far, in real life I am expected to behave/act in a certain way. When I’m online, I can be who I actually am.”

The email picked up my blog post, and dropped it on its head.

It doesn't really matter whether you agree with their point of view or not. The fact is that it highlighted a huge hole in my argument. I made the claim that anyone who uses social media to alter their identity does it to get away from who they actually are; a shy person can be confident and outgoing online, someone insecure about their appearance can agonise over posting a photo on Instagram that makes them look just right.

The sender of the email (we’ll call them anon) offered an insight from another perspective completely. Instead of agreeing that people use social media as a means to build a false identity apart from their real personality/appearance, anon explained that actually there are lots of people out there who feel they can only really be their true selves online. Social media, to them, is still something to hide behind, but they do so for very different reasons, and in a very different way.

For a society in which ‘being unique’ and ‘standing out as different’ are hailed as good things, it’s funny how keen we are to squash those of us who are genuinely… unusual into the tight and unforgiving mould of society’s do’s and don’ts.

The very fact that people can even be described as ‘unusual’ in a society where uniqueness is supposedly encouraged - and even nurtured - seems somewhat ironic.

It’s because of this that people like our very own anon are afraid to really be themselves at school, at work, out and about, even at home.

And the evidence of it is everywhere. I could name several people my age who appear to do all they can to blend in and stay well out of the lime light in person. They hide their skills and talents (musical, academic etc.), because the message they get from everyone around them is that they’re weird. Being good at singing is pretty weird. Trying hard at your school work is a bit odd. So they bury everything that defines them as them, as opposed to the next person.

The next person is good at sport and fashionable, by the way, so it’s okay for them to be unique because they do it in the right way.

It explains why you can often find out so much more about who someone really is by looking at their social media profiles. There are people in my school year who are often on their own at lunch time, very quiet and apparently awkward; yet online they're tagged in photos surrounded by friends. It turns out they’re extraordinary musicians too. And they compete in international mathematics competitions.

I'm going to be honest... I did make them up. But hey, I might see that person every day. How would I know? They wouldn’t tell anyone because that would be weird. That would be 'unusual'. And then… God forbid, they might stand out from the crowd.

...Probably best to lock that stuff away online, where only a few people will ever find it.

I think it’s safest to keep the email’s sender anonymous, but you’ll know who you are - thank you. People like you keep blogs like these alive, giving us a real drive to write something with genuine purpose – for someone. The only other email I’ve received went more along the lines of ‘omg lol I love ur blog so much keep doing it xx’, which is obviously also nice, but I can’t say it inspired me to write anything particularly profound.

Dom's listening to: ‘Weekend’ by The Mispers

Read my previous post here.

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