Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Mass Identity vs. Personal Identity: Are we Still Individuals?

"My name is Kotahi Tarawhiti, and I have a younger sister who adores social media ... But I often wonder how much of my 'sister' is still intact after using social media for so long. I believe that social media is turning individual and personal identities into more of a glob of people with similar 'likes' and 'followers'."

As millennials, we are well aware of the social media hype that seems to run our day to day lives ... and for those of you who refrain from using social media, I tip my virtual hat to you. Social media platforms have a certain power to dictate what we wear, how we speak and what we listen to. 

Let's take a look at how the establishment of ideas began... Italy started out and continues to be at the forefront of fashion. Today we like pictures and copy styles of famous Italian styles, but back in the renaissance period, fashion was a way to communicate new and exciting ideologies. 

Fashion was even influenced by books and good literature... and the Italian people wanted to share what they created with the world! 

With the creation of cartography and development of faster transportation, ideas not only concerning fashion, but also ideas that varied through all different aspects of life were able to be shared throughout the world. 

Then something interesting happened. Television, radio, internet, cellular devices all contributed to a mass distribution of ideas and culture. At face value, these devices are nothing short of a blessing in sharing and communicating with people all over the world ... but what is it doing to identity? 

According to Trevor J. Blank, the author of the book, Folk Culture in the Digital age, he says, "Writing in 1961, Historian Daniel Boorstin lamented that American society had witnessed the decline of the 'folk' and the rise of 'the mass,' adding that 'while the folk created heroes, the mass could only look and listen for them.' The folk had a universe of it's own creation... The mass lives in a very different fantasy world." 

So ... what makes us less of individuals with the desire to act, and more of a mass that is acted upon? Our social world is dictated by likes, followers and views, and according to Jennifer Golbeck, clicking the like button on a few photos tells people a lot more about who you are than you would hope. 

Golbeck tells a story of how a young girl bought a hand bag online big enough to hold diapers, and then a few days later was confronted by her father with ads from target for women who are pregnant. This young girl was definitely not pregnant, but because businesses hungry for money, they were tracking her pattern of likes and buys and shoved unnecessary (and somewhat harmful) information in her life. 

My friends and I discussed this issue and came to the conclusion that not only does what we like govern what we see on our news feeds, but what people share and follow themselves ends up being something we care more about than what's going on in our individual lives. This is what I fear most for my younger sister and other friends and family.  

The sharing of ideas through social media can be a great contribution, and should make the world a better place. It should not govern our personal lives by what we like, who we follow and how many times we view something. We can and should use it as a way to act for ourselves rather than be subjects who are acted upon. 


  1. I love your argument. I'm finding myself stepping away from Facebook, and other social media websites because I don't want to have my whole life story-boarded on the web, and I don't want to create a false identity for myself. Sometime I wonder if my lack of picture uploads and statuses are saying to people that I have no life. The very fact that I don't do those things is because I DO have a life, I just don't want to share ever second of it with the public.

    1. Amen Amanda!! That last sentence is exactly how I feel .. you're not alone!

  2. A question that entered my mind as I read your post was "Are we receiving information too fast that we don't have time to adapt to the last one?" Such as with your example of fashion it is almost like fashion changes too quickly for us to keep up or to claim it as a form of expression and identity as it used to, all because we can see all at once what everyone is wearing.

  3. Also I thought you followed Dr. Burton's criteria very well. Yours is the first I've read so far that specifically mentions you talking with your homies :)

    1. Haha thanks Jolene! I totally agree with you by the way ... I love what you said about fashion constantly changing ... and connecting that with Amanda's comment, I feel like by the time I somewhat "update" my wardrobe, the next fad has already taken over and I'm over here like ... whaaattteeverrrrr #overthis. hahaha

      ^^perfect example of me spending too much time on social media ... I speak through hashtags.