“What is hell? Hell is oneself.
Hell is alone, the other figures in it merely projections.
There is nothing to escape from and nothing to escape to.
One is always alone.”
— T. S. Eliot, The Cocktail Party
Over the last few years there has been much talk around the psychological implications of social media.
Some say we are losing our ability to socialize face-to-face, that our online personas are fabrications — that being, is less important than being “seen”.
In her article Social Media has Distorted our True Sense of Self, Priya Virmani says technology has taken the spontaneity out of life and is now breeding a culture of manipulation. She says the online world is a carefully constructed domain made for public consumption —including our online representations and the relationships forged as a result.
Huffington Post writer R. Kay Green gives this anxiety a slightly more positive angle, in her article The Social Media Effect: Are you Really Who You Portray Online? Green says creating an ideal version of yourself online can actually inspire you to be better in reality due to the positive reinforcement from followers.
However, the sense of “ideal self” verses “real self” was around long before Instagram.
In the 50s, psychologist Carl Rogers said the concept of “self” has three components: self-image, the view you have of yourself; self-esteem, how much value you place on yourself; and the ideal self, what you wish you were really like.
Similarly Sigmund Freud believed the unconscious part of our brain contains our truest feelings and desires and could only be accessed during sleep when the expectations and demands of the Ego and Superego (society and environment) were not at play.
Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest provide an outlet for both Rogers’ concept of the ideal self and Freud’s notion of the subconscious because they allow for more honest expression and stream of consciousness application.
We can feel alone out at the bar, we can feel alone at parties, we can feel alone at work — but we never feel alone on the Internet.
A friend you spend time with in person, may feel the person you are on Tumblr is not honest, but how often do we tell people what is really on our mind, how we actually feel or what our deepest desires are? Every conversation is a careful dance whether we realize it or not.
Which brings me to Fight Club.
In his 1996 novel, Chuck Palahniuk explores many of the anxieties plaguing American society. Although it was written before social media — or even mainstream use of the Internet, Palahniuk’s description of unconscious repression is still relevant today. The character of Tyler Durden — although sinister — represents the narrator’s alter ego or his “ideal self”. In the desire for freedom from societies expectations and his boring life, the narrator uses Durden and fight club to escape and be himself for the first time without inhibition.
What do you think? Is Facebook is Fight Club? Is social media the only place we can be truly honest — or is it breeding a culture of manipulation and dishonesty?
Facebook post: Is Facebook our Fight Club? Finding freedom in social media.
Twitter post: Tyler Durden used his fists — we tweet to escape. #fightclubisfreedom