Silhouette of a woman use mobile phone in city backgroundThe amount of people using social media is steadily growing, meaning that more and more people are being influenced by the top trends, articles, and people on social networks. We all know that social media is an opportunity to express and explore oneself, but many obstacles stand in the way of positive self-expression and the greatest hurdle is oneself. How we express ourselves online is significant to our self-perception and individual growth.

Everyone has taken time to decide whether or not to post a specific article, video, or photo on their social media account. Some people even take days. There are many factors contributing to that hesitation, such as the fear of not receiving likes or attention, or the fear of not being employed. However, the content, or lack of, on our social media, regardless of attempting to hide aspects of ourselves, reveals more about us than we may initially think.

There are three general trends of self-representation on social media networks, further analyses can fall under them; We all either want our personal profiles to reflect who we actually are (our actual self), who we want to be or see ourselves as (our ideal self), or a fictional version of ourselves—for better or worse (our should-be self). For example, a ‘should be’ or fictional self could be a person’s Instagram solely showing them eating at expensive restaurants, out partying, or looking trendy and stylish. In that case, they ‘should be’ (or feel like they should be) successful or happy, when in reality, that person may not actually smile often or enjoy their current situation or surroundings. Another ‘should-be’ self-representation would be a high-schooler only posting pictures of themselves promoting distasteful or illegal activities because they feel that they ‘should be’ doing such things.

The next profile you look at, notice exactly what the person posts and if you see any trends. Is everything they post a joke and nothing representative of their actual views or life? Is everything they post political? Do they ever post life-updates? Do you?

Some of us try to present ourselves as having the life and personality that we wish we had and stray away from anything related to having a mental illness, emotional instability, or any life uncertainty. Of course not all of those personal factors should be made public—but presenting oneself for who one truly is, “flaws” and all, can help others stay true to themselves as well.

My advice, and what I will follow from today on, is to present the real you online, not a falsified or hyper-idealized version of yourself. And most importantly, to not post content specifically for likes, because likes aren’t what should guide everything we do as a community or society. Anyone who has seen Black Mirror (Season 3, episode 1) can tell you how creepy life would be if we based everything we do upon virtual acceptance. Perhaps we shouldn’t post everything about ourselves on social media, but what we do post should reflect who we truly are and what we actually believe in.