Is Social Media Making Us ‘Curate’ Our Virtual Selves?

Is Social Media Making Us ‘Curate’ Our Virtual Selves? image art curation 225x300The term “curation” has migrated from the physical world of art to the digital domain as we increasingly apply it in the context of our online activities. Content curation is becoming the norm for marketers and publishers as we reuse, remix and recycle text, images and video that have appeared elsewhere on the web. In fact, this blog post, inspired by another post, is in itself an example of content curation.

It looks like the meaning of curation has now moved an inch further, with a debate shaping up about the practice of identity-curation. In a thought-provoking piece for The Wall, Jeremy Garner argues that in our daily social media existence we are actually curating our virtual selves. As netizens, we tinker with our social media profiles, reinventing the way we appear in the eyes of the world, thus becoming our own identity curators. Social media allows us to be selective about the content we post, making choices about who we want to be online.

Take Facebook’s Timeline, for example. You can decide which life facts to include and which ones to deliberately omit, constantly revisiting and rewriting the virtual “story of your life”, which may or may not be a far cry from the real story. Depending on your inclination, your digital life story could be a distilled version, an exaggerated yarn or pure fiction.

To complicate things even further, Garner writes that our real self and our curated self are almost two separate identities. In face-to-face communication it is easy to read a person instinctively, whereas in the digital world your curated self remains inscrutable as people often project a version of who they want to be:

“The curated self is, to a large extent, able to be controlled, even manipulated. Simply move the building blocks around a bit, or alter them, and the curated self instantly changes too. Altered perceptions will follow.”

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The more time we spend in social media, the more likely we are to migrate towards our curated virtual identities, goes on Garner. According to the author, the temptation of self-curation lies in our deep-seated love for story-telling and the fact social media enables us to control the development of the narrative of our own lives:

“Human beings always love a good story, we always have done, and being able to steer the main character (think of each tweet, shared photo, blog entry etc as a new sentence, paragraph or plot twist that drives the narrative further forward) is irresistible.”

So what are your thoughts? Is social media really making us abandon our real selves to live life online? And what are the dangers, if any?

Photo credit: Famous Accountants, Flickr/Creative Commons

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