Are you a brand?

The era of social media allows us to choose what we share with the world, cultivating a unique personal image.

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Erin Mahon '17

Instagram profiles provide a glimpse into our ideal lives.

Erin Mahon, Writer

Reflecting upon the meaning behind your last post to Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat will perhaps yield thoughts regarding how many likes it received and who viewed it. The important questions surrounding the post, however, are why you posted it and for whom—if anyone? No matter how many posts a person has, there is some reasoning behind each, ranging from trivial whims to deep desires for attention.

Today, colleges and universities scan every student’s profile just as employers do for potential employees. Gone are the days when profiles were unimportant aspects of ourselves, for it is no longer merely our “friends” or family that have access to us. Nothing is private. Despite debating whether or not to choose the “private” setting for our profiles, some part of us knows that the amount of privacy our accounts retain is, in reality, out of our control.

Social media allows people to share almost anything they want, and thus the things we post reflect our personalities and values. In a way, granted this freedom to display only certain aspects of ourselves we deem “good,” we generate a brand for ourselves. The “us” on social media then is perhaps not a true representation of “us” as a person. Junior Katie Shyman believes, “…Social media does create brands for ourselves. I think what determines whether this is good or bad is your character. It all depends on your intention behind posting the photo.” It would seem that for the majority of celebrities and commoners alike, posts revolve around the illusive idea that the more likes we generate, the better off we are as people. Social media thus propagates vanity, for the desire to maintain that ideal image is apt to become an obsession.  

Is this healthy? Undoubtedly we should seek to strive to better ourselves morally or perhaps intellectually, but is it healthy to endeavor to alter our image in the eyes of others for the sole sake of claiming that particular brand? In this way authenticity is usurped by its negative counterpart—superficiality. Our confidence and self-assurance rely so heavily on the affirmation of others that our image is in compliance with what is socially accepted.

Notably, the grim description above does not apply to all. It is merely a conjecture on the general use of social media and its adverse effects. Senior Martha Ryan challenges the notion personally, noting, “I find moments in my life that I want to share, or that others will enjoy, and post that! I treat Instagram like art, using it to show something that inspires me!” Imagine the benevolent, virtual environment we all might reside in if the majority of users employed this mindset.

I digress. I do not mean to chastise everybody and their mother on Instagram, for I would have to read this to myself in the mirror and ponder on my latest posts. However, I do wish to call to attention the ease with which we fall into this tempting, bottomless pit. I simply entreat you to reflect: am I a brand?