By: Anthony Zataray

I observed something recently at a concert. There were four girls sitting in front of me and they were there with their mother. This is fairly normal since they were about 16 or 17, but I noticed that when they took a picture — probably for their Instagram accounts — they did not include their mother. This may not seem significant, but it is actually a demonstration of these four teenage girls presenting a false persona, because it hints that they are independent and “cool” for being at this concert alone. In reality, they are normal teenagers who go to concerts with their mother, but this reality will never be displayed on their accounts.

In his book The Personality Puzzle, David Funder wrote, “[People] may become obsessed with presenting a certain image instead of expressing who [they] really are and what [they] really feel, [and] thus become shallow with no deeper purpose than social success. Such people become creatures of society instead of individuals true to themselves.” The four concert girls are common in today’s world, especially with the increased interest in and use of social media. People present themselves in a particular way on their social media accounts to display themselves in a light that is better than reality. Creatures of society buy into mainstream media by painting images of themselves and creating false personas.

The persona is the social face the individual presents to the world — a kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make an untrue impression upon others, and on the other to conceal the true nature of the individual. People unconsciously put on many different personas throughout the day. Society is built to support the idea of personas: many times we have to put on personas in order to function in work environments, interviews, and the classroom. The increase of social media has made a positive persona everything. This is a danger because, according to Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and the originator of the idea of the persona, “An individual might come to identify more with the persona than with the real self.”

Social media has made it easier than ever to become attached to a persona and live out this persona online without actually having a real name attached. “Catfish” is a new term that was born in 2010 because of this increased attachment to online personas. The term means to be lured into a relationship under false pretenses, such as a fake social media account.

People make fake accounts on Tinder, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, living out a persona and involving themselves in romantic relationships with real people online. This phenomenon has gained so much speed that it has its own MTV series called “Catfish,” which goes around the country bringing the members of these online relationships face-to-face to reveal that the person is not who they say they are, and that the other person is being “catfished.”

This conflict between reality and persona causes a disruption of balance between the actual self and the presented self. This imbalance can lead people to become obsessed with their persona on Instagram or Snapchat and not love their actual self. This then causes some to not live in the present, but constantly engross themselves in these apps. So many of us videotape our lives and don’t actually enjoy it, but instead worry about coming up with the best caption. This way of living alienates the actual self and places the persona front and center. The problem that comes with this is that the persona is weak and needs constant confirmation and reinforcement. The actual self is never developed or nourished, while the persona demands attention all of the time. Thus, any disruption to the persona causes feelings of loneliness and neglect.

I am not here to bash on personas, because we all have one to some extent. I am only suggesting that this is starting to get a bit out of hand, and that this obsession over using Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter to measure a successful life is an unhealthy way to live. We all have struggles and flaws, so you should try to love yourself — your real self — and build something special. Live in the present and enjoy every experience, because no video or caption can capture that better than your own two eyes.

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