With the constant evolution of the technological world and social media platforms, there is ongoing debate as to whether this change is an empowering or detrimental development.  The use of social media will be further explored, to show how it plays a significant role in the development of positive self-identity, self-esteem, and self-expression.  Our public world and self-contained identity begin to collide as we incorporate our own stories and experiences with our audience, many of which are strangers and people we don’t know.  Our audience and viewers may not know us or have the opportunity to meet us face-to-face, but social media forms the first impression of who we are.  Without the ability to openly speak our thoughts and expression of ideas, we are not able to develop our own identity and persona. Social media platforms are democratic because they foster freedom for the formation of self-identity, self-expression, and relationship building.

For individuals whose voices are silenced or are refused to be heard, social media has provided them with the freedom to do so in an alternative social space. By exercising our personal voice and having the autonomy to create our identity, we are freely developing our own sense of self.  In the physical world, particular personality types are favored, therefore their voices are easily heard.  Within the online community of social media, all personality types can gain a democratic voice.  Outlets such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter provide a visual and textual sense of who we are.  Readers can have a glimpse into our individual ‘voice’ that is present through our choice of words, font, and visuals.   We are given the freedom to portray ourselves in a way that we may have been restricted to within the physical world. 

The recognition of one’s potential and qualities as an individual especially in relation to the social context; that is the definition of self-identity. Social media is a place of developing your own personality and forming a sense of self, through the various outlets of media.  We may enter the online world without a sense of our individual potentials and skill until we begin to explore with forms of media and openly try new forms of self-expression.  Our identity can be shaped by what we are inspired by and learn from social media, building upon our current knowledge. We are creators of our self, when it is portrayed through alternative means online.  The way that we can freely portray ourselves to others through a digital screen, can aid us in discovering who we truly are or aspire to be.  As Jansen et al discuss “Change through media tools leads to young people’s possibilities to be recognized and be heard” (2011, p. 58).  Young adolescence and adults are given an additional tool to explore their abilities in an open space, that fosters dialogue and collaboration.

Social media fosters an opportunity for individuals to openly and freely express themselves.  The alternative world that we can place ourselves within, that allows us to write our perspectives and ideas, exercise our freedom of speech, or post a picture.  The ways of self-expression are endless and can be made by anyone.  Jansen et al (2011) describe social media as “platforms for sharing, remixing, and commenting on both amateur and professional media.  There’s more choice, more chance for conversation and curation, and more collaboration with media makers and much more creation by users” (2011, p. 58).  The freedom to state and express yourself allows for greater communication and community building with like-minded individuals, and those who may have different values and ideas.  With the limited control that social media platforms have in regulating the content that individuals release into the online world, it enables for open discussion and self-expression.  Through text, image and other forms of media, “opinions, emotions and thoughts can be shared without having to practice any censorship or restraint and within which contents are created by users” (Gündüz,2017, p.87).  At times, individuals may not feel as though they are able to express their entire self and voice to others but with social media, circumstances are changed.  

Social media not only serves the purpose of building self-identity and fostering self-expression, but it also aids in building relationships.  In a Pew Research Center (PRC) survey of US teenagers, it was shown that these online platforms provided various positive effects.  Whether or not these teenagers had met their online friends in person or solely through online domains, two thirds of the entire study pool stated that “these platforms made them feel as if they had people who will support them through tough times” (Anderson & Jiang, 2018, p.1).  Social media also fostered the bridging of relationships between communities, especially those who were far apart from each other.  In a study conducted by Thomas, Briggs, Hart, & Kerrigan, they explored how university individuals used social platforms to post and develop their ‘home identity’.  Students used these forms of social media to choose members of their school community to ‘follow’ or become ‘friends’ with, in addition to building their larger social networks. 

Social media is not simply an app or domain for us to browse the latest news and gossip from the entertainment world.  It is a tool that fosters the creation of self-identity, generates self-expression, and builds relationships in person and online.  Our democratic opportunity to share our thoughts, ideas, and exercise our voice are made possible by social media and the virtual world.  To develop ourselves and openly express how we feel and present that to individuals with similar perspectives, gives everyone a fair chance to be acknowledged.  It is a privilege to have an opportunity to explore through alternative forms of representation. In a society that attempts to silence many and restrict our ability to be ourselves, social media has given individuals a chance to regain a democratic voice.  

References

Anderson, M. & Jiang, J. (2018). Teens’ social media habits and experiences [Website]. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2018/11/28/teens-social-media-habits-and-experiences/

Gündüz, Uğur. (2017). The Effect of Social Media on Identity
Construction. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences. 8. 10.1515/mjss-2017-0026. 

Jansen, Pooley, Taub-Pervizpour, Jansen, Sue Curry, Pooley,
Jefferson, Taub-Pervizpour, Lora, & SpringerLink. (2011). Media
and social justice / edited by Sue Curry Jansen, Jefferson Pooley, and Lora Taub-Pervizpour
.(1st ed.).

Thomas, Briggs, Hart, & Kerrigan. (2017). Understanding social
media and identity work in young people transitioning to university. Computers in Human Behavior,76(C), 541-553.