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Social Media: Everyone’s a Marketer

Social media play an increasingly important role in people lives. Facebook now has more than a billion people using it. Something like seventy percent of Facebook is composed of images and videos: cute children, cute pets, wacky videos, drawings by children, photographs, images of this and that, comments on events, news stories, and so on. Behind all of this is, in some cases, a subtle kind of self-promotion, and in other cases, overt and direct self-promotion.

Images I use on Facebook

I have a blog on Facebook, “Arthur Asa Berger and the Literary Life,” that I use to promote my books and ideas about writing and other topics. It is an indirect or “soft” form of self-marketing, though I do not use it thinking it will sell many books. That is because my books are mostly textbooks, which means nobody (with rare exceptions) reads one of them unless commanded by a professor.

From a marketing perspective, we have to ask: how accurate is the way we present ourselves on Facebook? This is complicated by the fact that people can have different personas on Facebook so someone who claims to be a professor of philosophy can be a bank clerk and vice versa. An article by an Australian psychiatrist, David Brunskill (2013), offers us some insights into the way people use Facebook and the impact Facebook has on their lives. He writes, in his 2013 article “Social Media, Social Avatars and the Psyche: Is Facebook Good For Us?” that:

going online leads to a “state of disinhibited and dissociated personhood,” which becomes the basis of our online e-personality, a kind of vital and energetic representation of ourselves that differs markedly from our offline personalities because our online personality is not controlled by the traditional rules that shape our behavior.

He concludes that our e-personalities tend to exhibit grandiosity, impul- sivity, narcissism, darkness, and a regressive quality, what he calls the “Net Effect,” and writes:

Inherent to the experience of using social media is the self- selection of favorable material to represent the individual. This process is cumulative, and effectively creates a socially-derived and socially-driven, composite online image (“social avatar”). Humans notably select their best aspects for presentation to others and the social avatar reflects this tendency, effectively facilitating the creation of a “gap” between online image (representation) and offline identity (substance). The creation of a social avatar should therefore be an important and conscious consideration for all users of social media, not just those individuals already struggling with the task of integrating the multiple facets which make up modern personal identity. Social avatars appear to be an important factor in understanding the inherent potential for social media to affect the psyche/contribute to psychopathology within the individual.

What we learn from Brunskill is that going online and creating our e-personalities has certain dangers as far as our psychological development and well-being are concerned. The way we represent ourselves online in the social media has an impact on our psyches, though we may not be aware that this is the case. They can, he suggests, lead to a “fracture of the personality,” which he ties to the Freudian “Id” becoming liberated and running wild.

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