Why does social media seem ‘fake’ to some people?

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1. The rise of social media

Ten years ago, social media was in its infancy. Bebo was the most popular social network in 2007 with 10.7 million UK users. Today’s front-runner, Facebook, with over 30 million active users in the UK , has three-times more, as it and other social media sites become an everyday part of our life.

Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat offer information, entertainment and connections to our friends. But there’s growing unease about how inauthentic experiences on social media are.

As social networks become more sophisticated, and can better simulate real-life, are we mistaking the convenience of social media for something more profound? As people announce they are “taking a break” from obsessively documenting their lives, let’s explore why to some, social media feels fake.

2. High-profile rejectors

Ed Sheeran: announced on the 13th of December 2015 that he's taking a break from "seeing the world through a screen".

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Essena O’Neill: the Australian model deleted her Instagram account claiming it wasn’t "real life".

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Stephen Fry: de-activated his Twitter account after a joke with a "dear friend" at the Bafta Awards was criticised by other users, announcing the "fun was over".

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Daniel Craig: says he would never use social media as he believes it makes people disconnected when they should be together in person.

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Tina Fey: criticised social media saying most details of everyday life are too boring to share.

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3. WATCH: Filtering the world we see

Konnie explores all the reasons why our newsfeeds aren't a pure reflection of the world around us.

4. WATCH: How do we curate our lives for others?

If you'd eaten both meals, which one would you be more likely to post on your social media profile?

Londoners in Soho describe the decisions they make when posting about themselves online.

What we say on social media about ourselves, and what we choose to leave out, might broadcast a different reality to those that follow us.

5. Are we missing out on something profound?

Hyper-real and disconnected?

As social media becomes more sophisticated, people are living more of their lives on the medium. Are we at risk of replacing our real-life experiences with heavily curated online versions? And if so, are there parts of our traditional, offline relationships we might be missing out on?

Simulating real-life

French sociologist, Jean Baudrillard claimed modern society is so complex, we rely on symbols and signs to interpret reality. He argued it’s become difficult to differentiate between a stylised representation of something, and the object or event itself. For example, the “Hotdogs Legs” joke, where a holidaymaker’s tanned legs (or a pair of hotdogs) are in the foreground of a beach picture, is now the standard social media method of announcing a vacation’s start. Many people, unaware of the original joke, use it as shorthand for a holiday on social media. People widely adopting these memes for self-expression might mean their contacts don’t trust the reality they're seeing.

The illusion of support

Psychologists like Sherry Turkle think spending lots of time on social media can make you miss out on important things in the "real" world. Turkle believes digital connections and the "sociable robot" may offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of real friendship. Social media may not be a reliable enough forum for proper friendship and support.

"You’re going to an event"

A study by psychologists McKenna and Bargh showed internet groups seem to obey the principles of physical social groups and have genuine real-life consequences for individuals. Social networks may be useful tools that work alongside the physical world. The "event" function on Facebook can facilitate increased physical contact with friends. For others, where physical presence may not always be possible, social media platforms can help keep long-distance friendships intact.

Online vs offline?

Life spent on social media has its limitations, but individuals are different and will use social media in different ways. Perhaps modern social media users don’t miss out on important parts of life, as online and offline spaces are much more fluid than ever before; blending into each other, rather than existing in separation.

6. Tools that help construct our reality

We have always told stories and made sense of the world using technology. Could social media be the latest method of transmitting an individual’s perspective to a wider audience?

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