No one knows more about having an ego than a first year at University so we asked our newest Nexus writer Hannah Petuha to play both patient and therapist as she talks about the role of the ego in social media and how putting down your phone might help your soul.
Having an ego is perceived in both a positive and negative light. On one hand, the ego holds much importance in terms of self-esteem. Having self-esteem enables us to have reassurance in self, a favourable quality that oozes confidence and charm. On the other hand, the ego can quickly be inflated, doing more harm than good. Now putting this into a social media context, a reciprocal trend of stroking each other’s egos is becoming increasingly popular. We go to great lengths to alter ourselves so we don’t hinder our egos. What I often wonder is how much harm our inflated egos cause due to the extension of social media.
Social media boils us down to the ‘I’ and ‘me’. It allows us to conceal the worst and highlight the best, all in the palm of our hands. However, this comes at the price of our ego. Thanks to human nature we all strive to make ourselves appear better in the face of others. And it’s this very phenomenon that can be applied to our social media platforms. It comes in the form of boasting or a flattering photo… then the comments, praises, followers, and attention from others. All put together fueling something large; our egos. Using social media creates this toxic tendency for you to solely focus on yourself, your image, and your achievements. We like to be liked. Recognition gives us that feel-good sensation. That is the ego in its purest form. And this all adds up quickly. Because we are able to represent the best of ourselves in the media, we become full of ourselves. So at what point does fueling your own ego through social media become bad?
By engaging in social media platforms (which are inherently ego-focused) something dangerous can occur; the false-self. The false-self derives from what the ego creates to cope in this world. It is, in a sense, a defence designed to protect oneself. Social media easily accepts the false-self organisation. And the false-self and ego work hand in hand successfully- but it is not an indicator of good health. The word false in itself is met with a negative connotation, yet we all adopt this identity in the social media realm. Fueling your ego becomes bad when it adds to your false-self. Social media operates in our lives for many great reasons, however, it is an area in which the ego can receive much recognition. Once that recognition is gained, once you have reached the peak of fullness in yourself, there is no room in our hearts for anything else that is good.
There is almost this new cultural trend, thanks to social media, which teaches us that only focusing on oneself is best. But ultimately, being driven by your ego leads to serious implications. For one, having a large ego is often characterised by negative tendencies; believing everyone is below you, believing everyone is inferior apart from yourself… that people are never good enough in your eyes. These thoughts are harmful for the very reason that your ego assumes dominance over others. To a degree, your ego assumes that in all aspects of life, you must be selfish. Similarly, there is much talk suggesting the more social media one engages in, the higher the level of neuroticism. So here, it is clear to see the link between social media and interpersonal harm.
Social media rewards egotistical behaviour, which makes it increasingly difficult to break away from the false-self. How does one recognise they are living in the false-self in the first place if most people fall into the same mould? Even I struggle to break away from the tendency to see myself in a more positive light than others. I often imagine the cliche setting of what my life without social media would be like: Would I have less of a desire to be liked by others? Would my false-self cease to exist? Would I be more compassionate towards others? It can only be answered with a maybe. It should be noted that the conclusion is not that social media is to blame for our inflated egos, but rather social media encourages our inflated egos, which only harms others and ourselves. And the truth is, I don’t think anyone can fully detach themselves from their false-self. So while continuing to use social media is going to reward your egotistical tendencies, I feel as though there is only one way to break for the false-self, and that is reflection.
As cheesy as it sounds, with reflection comes growth. Reflection is exceedingly important when you consider the fact that social media does not require us to use as much cognitive energy. In simpler terms, engaging more in social media numbs our capacity to think. Having the ability to consciously pause amidst the chaos, or in this case, pause your inflated sense of self, is a trait not many people carry. It appears that we have all become routined to love instant praise and despise any critique that would hinder our ego. Again, this can always link back to the power of social media and how easy it is to manipulate the best of our lives. So a challenge to myself and to you is to reflect on how much your time is taken up focusing solely on yourself. That is to say, are you often consumed by praising yourself for your own achievements, intelligence, and aesthetic? How far is that taken when you apply your false-self to your social media platforms? I am guilty of it too, so as convicting as this reflection is for me, I hope the same is felt in you.
Our egos are reinforced due to the natural tendency of pursuing pleasure (recognition, praise) and avoiding pain. So as much as it is normal and healthy to have an ego, it becomes harmful and even dangerous, once it is inflated by social media. And how easy that is to happen- a simple comment or two, the following from someone of a higher status than your own. Modern culture encourages this behaviour of creating false-self, and to what benefit? False-self and ego work hand in hand only to create a distorted view of the world and the interpersonal relationships we have. We go to great lengths to get others to like us, and it’s a great feeling when people do, but where do we stop? The more we engage in social media, the harder it is to draw the line between the false-self and the authentic one. The only encouragement and advice from one fellow egotistical person to another is that of reflection. I have learned that putting down my phone, and thereby choosing to disengage in an artificial word completely alters my perception of self. If you carry on with a self destructive ego, you will eventually look back and see a world where nothing is genuine, that or you will become The President of The United States of America, it really is a fine line