Social Media and The Ego
Updated: Nov 27
Social media has become an integral part of our daily lives. For most people, it serves as a means of communication and sharing personal experiences and feelings, allowing us to reveal aspects of ourselves.
Why has it become so essential or fashionable to reveal ourselves to others or, in some cases, fabricated or abusive content about others in social media? Similarly, taking selfies and sharing them online has also become a trend. But what motivates us to do this? Is the ego running the show and directing our attention to showcase ourselves? What is the ego, and how is it linked to our behaviour and social media?
The ego is the sense of self, connecting our inner and outer worlds. It acts as an integrator, using past experiences to shape our present and future behaviours and actions. It is also responsible for our ability to anticipate and imagine future scenarios. Past experiences in early childhood shape the developing unconscious mind, which in turn characterises the ego.
A child's ego is formed by integrating positive and negative experiences by age three. The child has no control over what experiences their sponge-like mind absorbs, which then transforms into memories that can influence their future behaviour. It is important to know that our ego can be driven by primal forces known as the id, the unconscious part of the personality. If not contained, the id can have a dominant effect that becomes all-consuming and overpowering desires for attention, control and satisfaction at any cost, even if it harms the self and others.
It seems then that the ego is the executive of our personality, driving our behaviour and thought patterns. By observing someone, you can get an insight into their ego, mental health, and personality. It's possible to learn a lot about a person's ego simply by paying attention to their behaviour, mannerisms, and communication style. If the ego is not contained sufficiently or healthily, social media can be a perfect platform for the id to use the ego to express itself.
Our modern era has created social media to be a leading and dynamic force that has given the creators financial wealth and power no matter its negative consequences on people's lives. Of course, social like sharing our experiences, can foster community and connection with others. We can also raise awareness about important issues and inspire positive change. While we should be mindful of the potential downsides, let's not forget the potential of social media to bring people together and make a positive impact.
Nevertheless, social media undeniably has a magnetic pull that drives people towards being destructive to the point of sex trafficking, child criminal offences, malicious rumours, bullying, racist and hate crimes, distribution of personal images, and stalking. Also, evidence suggests that there is a link between suicidal behaviour and the use of social media and the internet.
In psychology, the ego is said to inherit both positive and negative energies from the id. On a symbolic level, we can associate these energies with good and evil, which are positive and negative qualities. These qualities are explored in the book "Why We Make Bad Choices," which follows the story of a character named Eve. Eve is tormented by her ego, which is often referred to as the false self. The book delves into the effects of the false self and how it can trigger inner and outer turmoil. Addictive behaviours, including the use of social media, often influence such turmoil. Research confirms that there is indeed a link between the brain and social media. I recently came across an article that discusses this connection in detail:
"Social and Emotional Response
Social media is made to be addictive. Each like or positive comment presents a little dopamine hit to our brain, thus creating reward pathways in the brain causing you to desire likes, retweets, etc.
However, the absence of likes and comments can leave us feeling empty, sad, anxious or depressed because our brain isn't getting that hit of dopamine.
Research shows regular social media users, especially those under 30, often compare their lives to those they see online, questioning their self-worth and overanalysing their relationships and importance to those in their social circle based on social media."
What is the false self?
The false self-mask or persona is an adaptive and learned defense against the true self. A renowned child psychologist, Donald Winnicott, theorises that false personalities develop due to early environmental failure, hiding the true self-potential. The false self is a powerful energy that consumes and suppresses the authentic self because who dares to reveal who we are? When the false self seeks validation, attention, appreciation, or love to fill its emptiness or boredom, it may be drawn towards social media. One potential reason is that social media provides a free and easily accessible platform to fulfil our ego's needs, which may lead to destructive tendencies.
For example, I recently came across the term "cloutlighting," but what is cloutlighting? A toxic relationship trend online. As I understand the word, it involves oversharing personal details of your romantic relationship on social media and is one of the reasons to attract likes and popularity.
Cloutlighting is when one partner shares information about their relationship and the other feels uncomfortable. In reality, the partner sharing is crossing their partner's boundaries, which can lead to a loss of trust and a breakdown in the fundamental principles of a healthy relationship. Are we saying having a large social media following is more important than shaming your partner or losing trust and integrity? It appears that social media may be exacerbating our narcissistic tendencies, which are a reflection of society's overall narcissism because of the amount of people engage and post abusive content. I'm not implying that we are narcissistic; it's essential to recognise the negative effect of social media on our behaviour and self-image. Social media has a dark side that heavily impacts people's behaviour and content sharing. For people who continue to lose themselves, the false self or ego becomes their primary way of representing themselves. For some, they maintain that image even when they're not online.
We cannot deny that social media has the power to bring out both the good and evil, love and hate, that exist within us. It's a platform where we can spread kindness or negativity, and our actions can profoundly impact others. It's up to us to use it responsibly and with empathy to make the world a better place, one post at a time.
Why We Make Bad Choices is a book that explores the inherent duality of good and evil that symbolically originates from the creation story Genesis.
 Hannah Frenette, Neuline Health, How Social Media Affects Your Brain. https://neulinehealth.com/how-social-media-affects-your-brain/#:~:text=Social%20and%20Emotional%20Response,desire%20likes%2C%20retweets%2C%20etc. Accessed, 9th November, 2023