Broadcasting the Self

In this week's newsletter, Nicole, from our marketing team, discusses how social media creates a false sense of reality in the way we document our lives.

When thinking about what counts as ‘journalism’, we often don’t turn to our personal Instagram pages. But through digital means, everyone has been given the tools to spin a narrative of their own lives, to elevate their day-to-day existence as ‘newsworthy’. Social media is the realm in which even sitting in a coffee shop can be a headline. Reading Zoë Corbyn’s conversation with Tamara Kneese in The Observer last week prompted me to consider how, when posting on social media platforms (so often designed with short-form content in mind) we often fail to see the longview. More specifically, how will the consistent reporting of the private and the personal, even if only to close friends, impact the way we understand our identities in the long run? 

There is, undeniably, a pressure that comes with being the news editor of your own life. Many of us make our identities easily digestible and consumable, package ourselves into aesthetic and marketable categories that leave less room for nuance and individuality. It is difficult to fade into obscurity and delete profiles for good, without feeling like you are missing out on opportunities. There is the expectation to be constantly available, tapped into a soon-to-be metaverse instead of being fully invested in the present moment. We accumulate a digital clutter, past iterations of ourselves preserved in the morgues of online archives like the Wayback Machine. Social media apps may originally have been launched as stripped-back platforms of communication, but they have since mutated into marketplaces for our status. Though the desire to fit in and gain status isn’t new, social media makes this personal branding more overt, available, and interconnected with the lives of others than ever before.

So, when those who have grown up with the media in its current state look back at this archive of their lives, will it be with a fond nostalgia, or with regret? Though some are returning to the humble flip phone and ditching social media apps entirely, the Internet has opened a box that can’t be easily closed. Our desire to feel seen by others, as well as comprehend ourselves in relation to the world around us, makes leaving the digital media landscape somewhat impossible. There is, therefore, some irony to the authenticity that YouTube’s founding slogan – ‘Broadcast yourself’ – seeks to encourage. Because the self that you broadcast, and make palatable to the world, is a construction; the long-term impact of keeping this curated, often highly self-conscious, archive of our lives is yet to be fully seen.

Nicole Gibbons, Marketing team

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