The Value of Anonymity on the Social Web

EContent › Eileen Mullan

A few weeks back, a good friend sent me an article that appeared on one of my favorite websites, ThoughtCatalog. It had me at the headline: “This Is How Social Media Is Ruining Your Life.” See, last summer I wrote a column pointing out that many people use social media as nothing more than means to promote themselves, not to engage in honest communication with friends. For a while I believed that maybe I was the only one who thought this, but, thanks to ThoughtCatalog, I know now I am not alone.

As Lea Bullen writes, “Even if you’re seemimgly content with your life in general, going through your news feed can a spark social rivalry that you didn’t notice existed. Constant status and picture uploads illustrating the details of people’s lives, regardless of accuracy, can make you feel slighted by the universe. Coupled with social media’s addictive nature, you could be putting yourself in a pretty bad place.” I should have felt vindicated reading that passage, but it just brought up those same issues–but this time, I found myself getting much more irritated.

Why? Because nothing has changed. People are still posting self-aggrandizing status updates under the guise of “sharing their life.” In fact, it may have even gotten worse.

Just look at this year’s Oscars. In between the intros and acceptance speeches, Ellen Degeneres wandered around the theater snapping selfies with celebrities and posting them to Twitter. One picture actually managed to crash Twitter! Sure, sure. These are celebrities I’m talking about, but the same rule applies to us average social media users: it’s all about getting the most likes and retweets.

Right now, we live in a world where every platform, from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram, is a venue for us to showcase the version of our “best” selves. We want people to friend us, like our status, or retweet our comments. We are, in essence, marketing ourselves out to our friends and family. How is it that the 21st century’s answer to the telegram has turned into smokescreens and horn tooting?