Which Version of Yourself Were You on Social Media This Year?
You might be suffering from online existential crisis. 
You might be suffering from online existential crisis. (Photo: iStock)

Which Version of Yourself Were You on Social Media This Year?

It’s the end of another year. We all know what that means.

Soon we will put behind the embarrassments of last year, and make new (yet the same old) New Years’ resolutions to exercise more, be more organised, flush out the negativity, opt out of toxic relationships, and reduce the time spent on social media.

Let’s pay some attention to the last one among the lot.

(Photo: Altered by The Quint/Nidhi Mahajan)

The Mirror of Erised/Desire

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that technology has taken over our world, we can’t live with it — at least not for long periods of time — and we sure as hell cannot live without it.

(Photo: Altered by The Quint/Nidhi Mahajan)
Social media is the Mirror of Erised (Potterheads, anyone?) onto which we project our desires; it is a timeline of constructed selves into which we obsessively feed information that would make us look effortlessly cool.

The thin line between sharing and over-sharing has long been blurred. Social media, they say, is one of the most toxic forms of self-indulgences.

(Photo: Altered by The Quint/Nidhi Mahajan)

So, if at the end of every year, you look back on your social media timelines — as I do — to check who you were this year, I don’t blame you. Self-validation, after all, is one form of social validation.

Caution: Social Self Ahead

Did I look happy or depressed on my social media? Were my insecurities reflected in the memes and quotes that I shared? Am I a cooler person in the digital world than I am in the real world? If yes, how do I maintain it?

(Photo: Altered by The Quint/Nidhi Mahajan)

If you are continually asking yourself these questions, you are suffering from online existential crisis. Okay, I totally made that term up but the problem goes deeper than mere social media addiction.

‘Selfie Maine Leli Aaj’– But Why?

The point about selfies and constructed selves may already be made and forgotten but is worth reiterating. To make it easy to understand, let’s consider one of the most viral songs of the year: Dhinchak Pooja’s ‘Selfie Song’.

(Photo: Altered by The Quint/Nidhi Mahajan)

“Selfie main leti jaun, apne friends ke sath,” says the song highlighting the digitally participatory nature of selfies.

If you didn’t post it on social media, did you even take a selfie? Also, if you didn’t consider what that selfie says about you before posting it online, did you even take a selfie?

For Dhinchak Pooja, the selfie says that she roams around in an Audi — a symbol of status and class (“Paisa mere peeche bhaage”) — day and night. For anyone else, it might say that they had a great weekend or that they’ve got adult-ing all figured out.

(Photo: Altered by The Quint/Nidhi Mahajan)

If that isn’t enough, there are social media filters, custom made to make us appear as the best versions of ourselves online.

Curing the Incurable

Here’s the thing: people who tell you to just opt out, switch off, log out and not look back are mostly just bullshi**ing. Technology and social media are here to stay, which makes online existential crisis almost incurable.

(Photo: Altered by The Quint/Nidhi Mahajan)

A social media detox, however, can definitely reduce some of your stress. At the cost of sounding like your mother, here’s what you can do.

  1. Debug your feeds. Unfollow handles that are no longer relevant to you; consume only what’s important to you right now, at this moment.
  2. Set a limit. Limit the number of posts you put out on each of your profiles in a day. Missed out on posting something seemingly important? There is always #TBT!
  3. Ask a friend to moderate comments. If you are tired of getting online hate, ask a friend to go through the comment section and hide the ones that might affect you.

A word of caution: this method is tried and tested but not full proof, because hey, we are all in the same boat/code, trying to make sense of our — now heavily digital — world.

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