Powered by the selfie culture, cosmetic surgeries continue to grow. In an era where our visual image defines who we are, everyone wants to look perfect in front of millions of social eyes. And our need to be liked is not limited to how we look, but actually involves who we are. A facial plastic surgery is not longer enough; it seems that our whole identity is undergoing a full digital surgery.

Who are you, really?

“ they want your dark in past tense because no one wants to deal with your present or future tense sadness” — Felicia C. Sullivan

Do we share who we really are in social media? Or do we just show our beautified ego? I’m not talking about arrogant or entitled people, like when we say “having an ego”, but your “ideal self”. It’s this fantasized self-identity that creates a tension between our real identity and who we pretend to be online.

There’s an unwritten rule in social media, the “socially correctness” that’s driving online behaviors. It’s the same as politically correctness, meaning you simply have to follow some rules if appreciation and acceptance is all you care about. Go on and brag about every possible achievement. Share with the world how amazing your life is. Let others know how everything you’ve accomplished is so easy and effortless. Please this implicit yet pushy new social media standard.

Storytelling has always played an important role in building personal relationships. It’s only human to tell our own stories in a way that we are portrayed as the hero. And I love that. My point is that, with social media, people cannot separate the heroified story from the real one; the boundaries between exaggeration and being someone they are not get blurred.

People with lower self-esteem are more concerned with what other people post about them, creating anxiety and insecurity, according to various research studies. Findings suggest that many feel that what they post, their virtual possessions, is part of their identity.

What happens when you can’t be the person the Internet wants you to be? As Felicia C. Sullivan asks on this brilliant piece: how do you deal with your sadness or imperfections (the real you)? We live a paradox. Trying to free ourselves, we end being prisoners of external appreciation. Our “ideal self” gets in the way, covering our true thoughts and emotions.

Can you hear me now?

“…empowerment without education only makes us foolish”.

Are people really trying to have a conversation? Or simply using someone else’s posts or shares as an excuse to make a point? As we browse online comments, it feels that many want to express their opinions no matter what, rather than talk to each other. Some are even taking this behavior to an extreme: they share their personal choices to make a statement, treating those who don’t adhere to their religious, political or sports preferences, as inferior.

I’ve jumped on the social media bandwagon early on both for personal and professional purposes. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc (even Ello), you name it. At the beginning, I was very excited with how the social Babel Tower would drive progress. Unfortunately, overabundance of (sometimes irrelevant) content has taken over. Social networks are full of beautified egos that create more clutter than real conversation.

LinkedIn Pulse was launched as a tool to empower everyone to become a thought leader. But empowerment without education only makes us foolish. People brought their Facebook mindset to LinkedIn Pulse: using the post- publishing tool to share updates, links and self-promotion news. Pulse went from a thought leadership tool to a cluttered place in the blink of an eye. In my case, I shifted to Medium to publish and read fresher content.

Facebook is the perfect example of refurbished egos. Sometime I struggle trying to recognize some “friends” due to their posts, there’s a gap between the person I know and what he or she shows to the world. Most probably they would think the same about me. Are we all going through a digital surgery without even noticing it?

Being Yourself in a Perfect World

Social Media networks, like everything in life, are neither good nor bad. It’s what we do that can turn them in something awful. Next time you go online, ask yourself: do you really need to continue putting your ego under digital surgery? Or is it social media that needs to undergo major surgery? Here are some thoughts starters:

Be mindful: are you adding to the conversation or simply generating more “social clutter”?

Be authentic: both brands and individuals can benefit from having a more realistic and honest social media life. Are you telling a heroic story or simply turning into someone you are not?

Embrace vulnerability: to inspire others to express how they feel or who they really are requires for you to lead by example. Accepting your flaws (specially as a professional or as a brand) could be game changing.

Shut up: sometimes silence is the best way to communicate. If someone is looking for a fight, avoid it. Use that space to listen to those that think differently.

Unfriend social media: may be it’s time to focus on fewer social media networks. Choose those that help you, shut down those that are dragging you down.

Turn off: just because online media is always-on, doesn’t mean that you have to be always posting or commenting. Take some time off and reconnect with yourself. Doing introspection is a fundamental part of being human, to decant and learn. It will also keep your identity safe from digital surgery.

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