Lost in a Digital Identity
BY: ERINAYO OYELADUN
It’s the first year of secondary school, and I constantly watch my classmates arrive with their latest high-tech phones, making them automatically 100% cooler than me (at least, that was what I thought). While every other kid my age was staying up all night talking to their friends or making videos on musical.ly, I spent evenings helping my grandmother make phone calls to her friends in our local village and went to bed at 9pm sharp. But now that I am older and finally have a phone, I intentionally try to stay away from it. This intentionality has gotten me to reflect and be grateful that my childhood wasn’t filled with the grandiosity that social media has unfortunately become. Yes, social media allows us to connect to other regions of the world and digitally peek at different cultures outside our immediate environment. But, like any other intelligently written software for humans, it only shows us what we deliberately choose and want to see, and that choice is sometimes not a good choice. Social media’s algorithm reflects our fantasy world: our beliefs are not questioned, we lack reality checks, and our “not-so-great” attitudes of believing our way of thinking to be supreme to another’s are encouraged even when that is not necessarily true.
This addicting, vibrant world that social media’s algorithm has immersed us in has in my opinion led us to excessive individualism, where we develop this thick bubble around ourselves, stagnating personal growth and manifesting in the habit of isolating ourselves to the Internet. Excessive individualism turns us into wallflowers. Excessive individualism turns what we fantasize into our seen reality, making it hard to view the world beyond what we perceive in our minds…
Isn’t it interesting that we can have friends on the internet whom we talk so much with and share our deepest thoughts with, but when we meet them in person or start to hang out, we begin to reconsider whether we want to be friends with them? Filled with the adrenaline of having my new phone, I spent many nights on it with my classmates, sharing our innermost thoughts and becoming “closer” than ever. But while we shared a digital connection, talking physically in school was still quite a barrier. We sometimes ignored each other because I didn’t fit into their cliche “cool” group. At the same time, they tended to get very annoyed with my eating habits. Who we were to each other was very different in both “worlds”. On the phone, only our most impressionable parts came to light, but physically, we experienced more of a holistic human. In other words, in person, we also had to come face to face with others’ flaws or not-so-perfects.
Falling in line with the excessive individualism I believe the digital world has driven, if our expectations for friends fall short in the real life, where they aren’t the person we “thought we knew” because they don’t fit into our perfect bubble, we may just stay away from them in person and keep it a digital connection. While social media isn’t all bad, and there are great content creators who are promoting positivity and kindness, we need
to keep in mind that the algorithm only shows us what we intentionally choose to see or wish to hear, and yet as imperfect beings, we can oftentimes be irrational or fall into our own biases. During those irrational fits, social media feeds into our irrationality, encouraging our feelings of bitterness, hatred, or our inability to forgive or understand the other sides of the story. Don’t let social media become your identity, your whole person, your social life.