vox populi

Virtual Identity: Me On This Side Of The Screen

Remember The Upside Down in Netflix’s TV series Stranger Things? If you don’t know, I’ll try to explain. The Upside Down was a mysterious place that resembled our world, just colder and darker. In other words, it was a replica of our world and needed to be accessed through a very secret gate.

Let’s take The Upside Down’s theorem and try to present our world and ourselves from this and that side of virtual reality. In this example, the secret gateway can be the screens of our phone, tablet, or computer.

Of course, none of these sides of the screen are as cold and gloomy as The Upside Down. The fact is, however, that the worlds of this very secret gate are duplicates of one another, but quite different.

I’ve been a pretty active user of social media, especially Facebook, for the past five years. I can’t say what started the activity, but I’m sure it was the age-old obsession with whatever was “cool” that captivated everyone. When you are young, you want everyone to hear you, to see you, to listen to your opinion, to get approval because the modern world today is killing your self-esteem and you somehow need to revive your self-esteem.

Across the screen, on social media, we create the image we would like to have in real life. Or, maybe social media is the place where we become heard, gathering people like us who are different from our relatives, classmates at school or university.

On this side of the screen, in real life, I’m a young person who has social anxiety. On the other side of the screen, on social media, I’m the person who jokes about social anxiety because her Facebook friends are a bubble where people who have social anxiety and joke about it live.

That’s why Facebook is a platform where you can quietly self-deprecate or humiliate yourself, and not wait for a harsh judgment, but laugh at people with the same feeling.

From this part of the screen, in real life, I am someone who dances to my favorite songs by twisting my body and face in weird ways. On the other side of the screen, on social media, I’m the person who shares that song with some sublime descriptions. The same goes for movies.

In real life, I sit comfortably, “not aesthetically,” or lay on the couch, eating “non-aristocratic” popcorn, but at the same time posting aesthetic images and aristocratic characters from a film on Facebook.

Sometimes I get the impression that the person in my Facebook profile picture is the one doing all the posting. 

And for some reason, this raises my self-esteem. We may all find it difficult to admit that social media raises our self-esteem, even a small comment can make our day better, and so what if it is virtual, not real? Though, who said it is not real?

Virtual reality is just the other side of our world, our Upside Down. Since the creation or emergence of mankind, the means of communication have changed many times, and I am sure they have always been criticized.

Probably the people in the cave, who after some time switched from cave paintings to communication through exclamation, thought, “These days, people have begun to communicate differently.”

The exclamations were replaced by words, the correspondence was invented to reduce distance, and the distance was reduced when the telephone was created. We are now close to each other, thanks to the Internet and social media because there we find the self that we would like to be and which is more likely to be real than the self of our real life.

Susanna Ghazoyan

Student of English and Communication at the American University of Armenia

Susanna Ghazoyan’s essay won “I Am Media” Student Competition Encouraging Award

The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.

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