Behind the Smile

In this class, we have discovered the advantages, as well as the disadvantages of social media. We have directed most of our studies to the field of marketing. Marketing using social media is a growing practice that has found itself present in nearly all large companies worldwide. From providing tremendous growth in some companies, to the crisis and total PR disaster in others, social media plays a huge role the business world of today. We have learned how social media has vastly swept the world in measurable growth unlike any prior technologies. The quick expansion of social media has sent the creative minds of the human kind into a foot race. With minds and technology rapidly moving, it is common to over look the potential harm it may cause. Every day, the majority of people in the country are building individual “digital identities”. Being given the power to building our own digital identity leaves plenty of room for misrepresentation. In other words, the people in which we interact or observe online may not always be represented properly by their digital identity.

In an online article by, Kelsey Sunstrum, she describes the way in which people with diagnosed depression use their digital identity. Sunstrum says often times those experiencing depression will dually experience a phenomenon known as “smiling depression”. Smiling depression occurs when someone who is depressed actively masks their depression with actions such as hiding behind a smile. The freedom to customize and choose the way we represent ourselves online provides the perfect mask for people experiencing depression. For people who experience symptoms of depression, they often find their digital self to be perceived as the opposite. Sunstrum states, “We are conditioned to project only our best, albeit unrealistic, selves on our social media profiles as a modern way of virtually keeping up with the Joneses. Regardless of whether you realize it, you’re spending a great deal of time and effort on the creation of your digital identity. The molding of this alternate self depends heavily on how others are projecting themselves in these arenas as well. What happens to your ‘real’ self, then?” People with depression find themselves actively thinking of ways to look fun, energetic, or happy online.

The ability to control your own perceived image leads cases of severe depression to go undiagnosed. This means that people who would normally seek help for depression are not receiving the help they need. When depression is undiagnosed it can result in severe mental or physical damage and could even result in suicide. Just as fast as social media expands and grows, so does it’s effect on our lives. As we continue to learn from our fast pace society we will always grow from the harm that may arise, but as we grow we must always be mindful of what lies behind the smile.

Brandon W. Gray

Kelsey Sunstrum’s article on how social media effects our self-perception:  http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/03/14/how-social-media-affects-our-self-perception/

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