I think it’s fair to say that the world is in your hands when you have a phone with a browser and an internet connection. Nowadays, we have everything on the tip of our fingers, the power of sending and getting news in milliseconds, the voice to post our opinions and views, the platforms to show our artistic vision and creativity. I think it is fair to say that as technology progresses, people seem to become more multi-dimensional, with some sides of their personalities showing that otherwise we would never have seen.
The online world has given people either the sense of anonymity (even if it is a false sense) to do almost whatever they like on the Internet or the launchpad to make their name mean something, either one way or the other. I mean, go on any of the major websites or platforms today, from Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest all the way to YouTube, Medium and Reddit, people have so many options right now to be themselves.
Almost all of us have heard it from one person or another, especially kids, that we should spend less time online on the Internet or playing games on our consoles, and to go out and live our lives. But the fact is, for better or worse, the very fabric of society is very different from what it was two decades or even a decade ago. Things have changed so much that a chunk of our lives (some might argue, a significant chunk) of our lives is lived online. People have as many online friends as they might have off the Internet.
This is the truth, more so for the younger generations. Everyone has an opinion to voice, pictures to show and art to display. Some people have fame worldwide without anyone having a shred of an idea, who they really are, while others have become established household names. Such is the disruptive nature of the Internet, that it tests the boundaries of nearly everything.
I mean, this isn’t something that is particularly new, there were always people who were different or perceived to be different from “normal” people. The fact is, that while being different from others in one or another is not new, it has almost become a trend in the Internet age to highlight how you are different from other people. Everywhere we see, there are people who are perceived to be different who are doing great in lives, all the way from Elon Musk to prominent YouTubers and Twitch steamers. New age companies and startups want people who are “different”, who are untraditional and young. More so now than ever, people look for that thing that sets you apart from the rest of the crowd, and with the rise of social media, people have plenty of opportunities to stand out and get noticed. Everything from getting in our dream college to getting the right job to the new movies and coming of age cinema, we are asked about what makes us unique and we focus on what makes others unique.
But a question has popped in my mind, and that is why I write this. The question isn’t whether we are different, but how different are we? When do we stop being ourselves, and start “projecting” under a pretence? I mean, there is no question that people have done it, look at all the things that are faked on platforms such as YouTube. Is the very desire to be unique and true to ourselves, something that we actually want? Or is it something that we perceive as important, a manufactured figment of our imagination through the pressures of our society and peers? Is it really discovering our true selves, or just discovering what people already want to see or see in us? To what extent we are being ourselves, and to what extent do we manufacture ourselves? Is what we see of celebrities and modern-day icons, a hoax? More importantly, are we doing the very same thing, just on a much smaller scale?
I do not know the answers to any of these questions. In all likelihood, there are jumbled answers to these questions, mixed responses crossing lines that people did not realise they had crossed, how they have been subconsciously changing themselves in an attempt to change the perceptions surrounding them. There is no question about the influence that social media has on our lives and our perceptions. There is no question that it has many positives and and an almost equal number of negatives. I do not expect to get answers to any of these questions anytime soon, because technology has become so intertwined with our physical selves that there is now a very fine line between what is manufactured or false, and what is real or genuine. Whether we really want to be different, or whether we just “act” different (in the most ironic sense, to fit in, because everyone nowadays is different), seems like a question seems like the defining question for years to come.