Mask of Social Media

Behind the Mask of Social Media

Social Media has become part of our best friend circles and she seems to be the friend that holds the group together. She isn’t left out of any gathering and you can usually find her snapping pictures at a girls’ night out or recording videos at tailgates. She never misses a special occasion. But our good friend Social Media is known for lying and sometimes portraying herself in a certain light.

With Social Media in her prime, she finds herself only posting pictures of her dancing the night away, sipping on expensive cocktails atop rooftop bars and the occasional #OOTD, but do we really know who Social Media is?

As college students, we have been taught to depict our best selves, but does that mean only sharing what makes us look cool or different? Recently, Essena O’Neill, a 19-year-old Instagram model from Australia, revealed what went on behind the scenes in all of her posts and how it was not her real day-to-day life.

Having to please thousands of followers and create this “perfect life” was all part of the illusion O’Neill was painting for her fan base. She recently posted a video on her new website,, describing her reasons for why quitting social media will be a healthy change for her.

“We say its connecting and social sharing, but when its validation through numbers, you can’t just ignore it and say it doesn’t get to you when we judge everyone so clearly on it,” said O’Neill.

Like O’Neill, a majority of us only want to post pictures that will guarantee us likes. With this thought in mind, does that mean we only share things that keep up our online image?

 “A majority of the posts I choose to share with my followers on social media depict me in a positive light,” said George Alfano, a senior marketing and business management student. “If someone were to look at my social media platforms, they would see the most important times I had, almost like a highlight reel, where I decided to share with the world the ‘best of’ what is happening in my life.”

By only posting the best times of our lives, our followers will start to believe we live in a perfect world. Additionally, we, as the ones who post content, will start to feel pressured to keep up with this stigma.

Nikki Banks, a sophomore marketing student, explained, “Since a majority of my followers know I am talented at make-up, I feel pressured to post pictures of my make-up skills. Also, I feel like I have to look good in all of my pictures since my followers expect it from me.”

The millennial generation and younger may be the only age group that feels pressured to produce content that is meant more for others than themselves.

“I don’t worry much about my social media reputation, as it’s fairly benign compared to what I see out there,” said Kristine Simoes, a Specialist Professor of Communication at the University, on her own usage of social media.

Social media has not only affected everyday life, but it has also affected certain occupations.

According to Simoes, “Social media has developed rapidly into a blessing and a curse for emerging PR professionals. On one hand, it affords a boatload of autonomy for a company, but with that autonomy comes the empowerment of that company’s customers, clients, and targeted publics.”

Well-known brands are also seeing this change occur in the way that they reach their audiences. For example, many designer brands collaborate with influential bloggers to promote their newest products. The bloggers are paid to post pictures of the hottest new bag, shoe or necklace on their Instagram page and tag the company in the photo or caption. In return, the company receives revenue and new customers.

But, is it the most truthful way to promote a product by paying these bloggers to integrate merchandise into their daily photos? By having their followers believe they love whatever the company has paid them to post further encourages the idea of creating a specific image of oneself online.

So the question still remains: do we really know someone based on their social media profiles? For some, this may apply since it seems as though we all know at least one person who over-shares every detail of their day. But, for the majority, we cannot say that we truly do.