It’s almost like a taboo – something that most might never admit even to themselves – but there’s a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to our behaviour and personal interactions on social media.
Much like our daily lives have their complexities cleverly concealed underneath layers of pretentious garb, the world of social networking too isn’t without its hidden motives. It may be a virtual space but it mirrors the real world in more ways than one could imagine. It’s all about creating an image with utmost care and caution all while giving the impression of spontaneity. It’s about carefully cultivating a persona that exudes an aura of carefree intelligence when in actuality nothing could have been more deliberate and calculated.
It’s all to do with the subtle workings of the mind
The rule governing the game is one-upmanship and self –promotion and it is these two aspects that are at play when people network on social channels. Every action or inaction is governed by a motive – will liking someone’s post make that person more visible? Will a comment by me on another’s post enhance that person’s reach among my circle of influence? Does it befit me and my “image” to interact with a particular connection? There is always an undercurrent of insecurity and the constant need to maintain a positive impression among your virtual peers.
In this way every response becomes a measured step that weighs all the hidden dynamics in a matter of split seconds, before our conscious minds can even understand and register the thought process.
Status conscious hierarchies – a déjà vu?
In both – the real and virtual world, people display identical behaviour patterns, as is evident in the way they like to professionally associate with those (at least publicly) who are on an equal footing in terms of designation, authority and overall status. There are unspoken hierarchies that determine whom you would like to be seen hanging around with on social media and whom you would much rather avoid. The same old biases (race, ethnicity, social standing, age) that have been prevailing throughout the ages condition us to always appear at our practical best. We dare not challenge stereotypes for fear of taking away some of the lustre from our profiles and so we play safe in our professional networks too, publicly mingling only with those that befit our reputation.
Virtual networking then is truly a parallel world we have created for ourselves replete with all the double standards and trappings of class and position. It’s rare to find influential persons connecting with the “lesser and lower mortals” without that hint of condescension or ulterior motive.
Do we thus lack the ability to simply be ourselves without always wanting to fit into established norms that dictate our every action and decision? Do we lack the courage to be completely honest about ourselves and the world? Do we lack the guts to keep at least our virtual space what it should be – open, natural and free?