I've been wondering what might be the reverse approach of social media: considering its structure in order to obtain information from Big Data by embedding an individual's data in a collective pattern, I think that enhancing an individual social media data's uniqueness might be a key. As said before, we manipulate a speech act (and the performative nature of the language on social media is evident) considering the public we are "performing" to: Instagram contacts, our high school classmates on Facebook, potential employers on Linkedin, future dates (or one night stands) on Tinder.
The shocking personal exposure to our hidden thoughts and desires when we think we don't have a public when we type our searches on Google, is a good example of the power and influence of the social nature of communication. When we want to show our best self we show what we believe others might think is our best self; even if we try to be controversial we try to be controversial for the opinion that our public might have. A few weeks ago I posted an Instagram story in which, even if not even remotely vulgar, I was wearing my underwear. Three of my friends asked if everything was fine, while thousands of other girls on the internet do that without any kind of surprise by their followers. We have a public that is requiring to us to fit in a coherent, curatorial expression of ourselves and if that doesn't happen there is something wrong. I asked several friends how they feel if they post something on Instagram that they feel is slightly different from what they usually would post and the most honest answer has been: uncomfortable and a bit anxious, and that sort of happened to me as well. It's like adding an innovative dish in your traditional restaurant and waiting for your loyal customers' feedback. Will they accept this new novelty or reject it leaving you at the humiliation of indifference?
The fact that a new Social Media etiquette is not codified and established enough makes the dynamics of attention and reactions between people quite brutally explicit and honest: if I'm not entertained enough by what you're posting I won't follow/like/watch your stuff. And the fact that we get addicted by that attention because of an actual molecule, dopamine, it surely doesn't help to heal the anxiety. Dopamine relates to the reward we receive for an action and has been described as “the Kim Kardashian of molecules” by British clinical psychologist Vaughan Bell. Our audience is related to our real-life acquaintances, our interests, and mostly, our ambitions. The fact that the more we're gonna fit the more we'll be rewarded and satisfied, and the fact that the less we fit the more we're gonna be ignored (and nothing hurts more in a social environment) makes our expression easily more and more stereotyped.
We are all stereotypes: if not on a clichè level like a cheesy fashion Instagrammer, I'm still a stereotype for my own audience. I might look extremely original compared to one of them, but a picture of myself with a duckface is going to be almost controversial on my Instagram profile. Again, some of my posts look particularly basic compared to some visual artists' ones. We are a product of our own expression but at the same time, we risk to get a passive approach and even to have a static opinion about ourselves in order to be rewarded and feel comfortable. And by comfortable, I don't mean looking basic, I mean fitting in into our virtual self.
There is a sappy Italian song from the Seventies by Mina called Sono come tu mi vuoi, which can be translated into: I'm how you want me to be and expresses the unhealthy pleasure to be a representation of someone else's desires. And I'm wondering, again, if I'm fitting what I think others are expecting from me or what I'm passively expecting from myself.