The use of social media has become so commonplace that anyone without a Facebook profile is viewed as a rebel or maverick. In the fast-paced world of the Internet it seems a lifetime ago that opting out meant simply not creating a MySpace or Bebo page. Back then it was even considered socially acceptable.
In those days you were expected to personalise your page and post with regularity. Now you’re not even required to have a profile picture. And back then you only chose one – Myspace or Bebo – largely due to fact they were essentially the same.
Now most of us are active on several social media platforms. Each have different functions, allowing us to receive and share information in different ways – from pictures of social events to world news, as well as keeping us updated on the lives of exes and other people we barely know any more.
As social media platforms have changed and evolved, so has the way people use them. Some simply consume information and rarely contribute content, either due to laziness or to maintain privacy. For others it represents much more. It is seemingly their means of personal validation through likes and comments, followers and subscribers. It is their forum through which they can vent about small grievances or brag about recent accomplishments (travel and graduation photos, for example).
The way we use social media projects a unique persona, even if it is completely removed from our persona IRL.
In 2007, Forrester Research conducted a study into the different social media users in the U.S., and listed them into six personality types:
- The Creators: they spend the most amount of time on social media and fill up everyone’s newsfeed, reporting on their every thought and movement.
- Critics: contribute most through comments, likes and shares, but rarely creates their own content.
- Collectors: use social media for news and interesting facts. Typically bookmark and use RSS feeds.
- Joiners: sign up for every social media site under the sun.
- Spectators: the watchers. They may use social media as much as the others but they refrain from voicing their opinions, preferring to watch from the sidelines than get on the field.
- Inactive: may have a social media page/profile but never use it.
Since this study was conducted wayyyy back in 2007, things have changed. Accordingly, there is a new list of social media personalities, which reflect the ‘modern age’. U.K. company First Direct conducted the largest study into social media habits and personalities. They came up with this infographic that lists all the new variants on social media personas they discovered:
Of course, we don’t all fit perfectly into each personality. We’re usually hybrids of at least couple, and have all, at some point, been guilty of ‘Peacocking’.
What do our social media profiles say about us? In most cases not much. It is rare that our social media profiles truly reflect what we are like as a person, other than indicating whether we have a strong grasp on grammar or photography. In truth, the social media world represents a fantasyland, only giving a glimpse into the person you are and the life you lead. Even judging ‘Ultras’, who post constantly, it is nearly impossible to form an accurate opinion of their actual personality based on their social media.
It’s unlikely that you would post mundane elements of your life, even if it were predominantly boring. By the same token, if you lead a rich and interesting life, it is equally unlikely that you would feel the need to prove it to your friends through social media.
Self-expression isn’t the point of social media for many of us though. It’s just a bit of fun and a distraction from work or our next Uni assignment.