Health & Wellness

Real vs. Virtual Identities on Social Media

Credits: LaMenta3 on flickr

This opinion piece was written by Tara Guaimano, a Cedar Grove High School senior participating in a journalism program with TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove.

CEDAR GROVE, NJ - I’m not here to preach about why you should take down online photos of yourself at a party, or delete that tweet with the curse word. This article is not a warning about what colleges are going to see and possibly not accept you because of them. The real matter at hand is digital identity, beyond what is seen by universities or potential employers. It is rather about social media perception and how today’s teens are essentially creating multiple virtual identities, if not developing multiple virtual personas, due to the easy access of and obsession with social media.

For today’s youth, social media is much more than just a medium for sharing photos with friends and family.  Many teens spend countless hours planning, editing, and taking photos to post on their Instagram page, all for the sole purpose of creating a separate identity for themselves and for the sake of self-satisfaction.

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“Some people take Instagram as this artistic portrayal of themselves,” claims Cedar Grove High School senior, Julia O’Donnell, “You can almost tell what kind of subgenre or sub-culture they identify with.”  Such a concept provides ample room for fabrication.

Even aside from over-exposure and privacy issues, social media has gained a prominent role in modern society, as many young people’s Instagram or Twitter personas have become a major part of their personal identities, in some cases masking their real personalities and beliefs.  Their Smartphones and their public feeds act as an extension of themselves—serving as crucial supplements of their overall selves.

“It [Social media] is obviously not a true reflection of the person, because it is not showing everything about them—it is what they are choosing to post and what they want people to see,” said O’Donnell.

The amount of time and effort that goes into posting a photo on Instagram is quite alarming, as it is apparent that many teens have become obsessed with the way they are perceived by their peers online.  Social media makes this reinvention convenient, and many teens use it as a clean slate to craft their personal identity any way they please, only digitally.

“I posted this Instagram photo of myself at a football game with the caption ‘Me enjoying a football game,’ while wearing a Dallas Cowboys hat, but I really don’t like football or the Cowboys,” said Nicolette Digori, Cedar Grove High School senior.

This dangerous mindset can be confusing as young people become engulfed in their digital identity at the expense of their genuine selves.  Concentration is shifted from real character traits and values to how they are best portrayed on a mere Smartphone screen.

“Social media has caused us to shift away from expressing our self-identities and toward constructing facades based on the answers to these questions, ‘How will others look at me?’ and ‘How can I ensure that others view me positively?’,” according to Jim Taylor Ph.D. of

Ultimately, young people are idealizing their own lives, caught in a sea of self-disillusionment, as they try to craft their identity to meet social media and peer standards.  It is important to recognize the epidemic, as it can only regress the social skills and overall growth of young people today.  Teens need to release this unnatural concept of digital identity, and concentrate on the concrete simplicity of flesh-to-flesh perception, for the sake of mental health and personal self-worth of the youth.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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