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  • Writer's picturePoetic PIXELS

Superficial Depth: Navigating the Labyrinth of Self-Perception and Social Expectation

If I am me and you are you, that makes us different..right? Equally human but characteristically different, most notably in our physical attributes and appearance. It is the observation of these differences that psychologically separates us. But it is acknowledgement of our intrinsic biology that connects us.

While individualism allows us to be divergent, we aspire socially, to a level of convergence so contrived that we deconstruct our ideas of what it means to be attractive, approving or acceptable. In doing so, we suppress our true selves in favor of our false ego.

The false ego is key here. The truth is that we live two realities. A dual existence. It's like we dance a cerebral waltz in and out of orbit of idealism and disenchantment.

One reality in which we are and are allowed to be ourselves -exposed and awkward but unashamed. Perhaps this is attributed to the familiar people and environments that we interact with on a daily, personal level. Repetitive familiarity creates comfort and comfort creates confidence. The non judgemental, non disparaging components of this interaction afford us the capacity to be intrepid and explore fearlessness.

To be one with ones self.

Then there is a contrasting reality. The false ego. One in which we are not nor are we allowed to be ourselves -exposed and awkward but unashamed. We mask self-consciousness, constantly trying to be perceived as adept. Presenting ourselves as appealing and invulnerable. Perhaps this reality is attributed to the unfamiliar people and environments that we must confront daily. Unfamiliarity creates uncertainty and uncertainty fosters insecurity. Insecurity is a debilitating psychological evaluation and perception of self-worth. A poor understanding of this worth, makes us pliable to the will and conformity of societal standards.

To be one with the illusive convention.

One of the biggest conundrums I struggle with is the way we intertwine physical appearance with acceptance or approval. This relationship manifests in the way we present ourselves to the unfamiliar world and foreign interaction. Since visual appeasement is praised by society, we learn early, to lean more towards it as an identity. Some of us live the false ego 100% of the time, and we forget when and how to put it down. This falsehood becomes us.

When did wearing makeup

become synonymous with being beautiful?

Are we comfortable creating a deluded view of ourselves and presenting that to the world? It seems that we are. Our devices have cameras that face us now, so we are in complete control of the outcome of the images we create. Done are the days of Polaroid impromptu instant photos where prayers are mumbled as you wave the snapshot in the air while it develops. Is the camera just an extension of our narcissism? A tool we use deceive the world around us? Is the filter really me? Or have I become the filter?

Access to filters and image editors

leaves nothing to chance.

As conceit hits new highs, our insecurities hit new lows. Vanity has hijacked our personas. It is suddenly more important to look beautiful and less to actually be it. We are plagued with the fear of outward appearance and judgement so often that how we look in the moment becomes more important than actually experiencing it. This fact can be observed with the popularity of 'selfie' culture.

How often have you interrupted your own or others lives simply to capture a picture of it?

The ways in which we utilize and allow social media to represent us is provocative. True expression has been replaced with false illusion. What I mean is, we no longer have a need for truth in our interactions. Truth in our ideas or perception. Of all of social media, the 3 most popular have to be Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. It is interesting when you observe how these instruments have and continue to shape our lives.

Facebook provides a platform for us to express and present our innermost ideas, thoughts and opinions - BOLDLY! Our feelings, fears and desires to our "friends" and thus the world.

It acts as a psychological listening buddy (digital therapist if you will) and social validation tool. It is also increasingly becoming a facilitator in informaton and "News" distribution. The amount of control that FB has on its users is disturbing. It controls the information that people receive, thereby controlling the narrative and projection of their mental framework.

Where society intensifies its focus on superficial attractiveness, Instagram is there to provide a platform to host such vanity. Generating "likes" and followers" provides a shallow way for us to stroke the illusory false ego. We find temporary comfort in feeling that we are liked and have a supposed following.

It becomes a competition to out-do one another and we have come to measure our self-worth and popularity by how many online friends we have or how many likes a particular picture/post receives.

The pictures are intended to deceive. This deception is encouraged by incorporation of filters that when used, alter the image just enough that one cannot distinguish it from reality!

And now we have introduced AR or Augmented Reality. Not sure what AR is? Well if you've ever used a Snapchat 'filter', then you've seen and used AR technology. AR superimposes a computer-generated image onto a user's view of the real world, thus providing a composite or fake view. While this may seem like harmless fun and play, you have to consider the implications when you have a society drawn to false representation. In keeping with the theme of this essay, it is important to point out that while artistic, a composite image is still a fake image thus eluding reality.

AR literally changes the physical appearance of its user. We tell ourselves that the fun is harmless but the fact the we actually save, share and refer back to these images speaks to a deeper internalized need for outward expressive forms of validation.

As we struggle with our identity crisis, we come to own the persona that we maintain. We develop its ideas. We present it and we protect it. And through persistent cultivation of the persona, we actually come to believe that it is us. Introducing soc meds into this confusion feeds the false ego and further perpetuates the narrative.

Of the many social ills to befall this world, none has been more destructive and counterproductive to human progress than the psychological stronghold of the false ego.

In an era where dualities coexist with a filtered reality, our ego games are exposed, revealing a vanity unveiled. We grapple with an illusive identity, hiding behind social facades and succumbing to a persona crisis. This intrapersonal warfare leads us into a maze of conformity unmasked and a world of reality augmented. Mirroring these complexities are digital mirrors, shrouding the truth veil and creating false fronts. We're caught in a validation trap, enticed by a beauty mirage, living a pixelated self. Our superficial depth contradicts the essence of our being, leading to disguised authenticity. We find ourselves in an approval paradox, constantly torn between appearance and essence. Welcome to the intricate labyrinth of self-perception and social expectation, where vanity and narcissism have clouded our vision and judgment.

I end with this quote-

Vanity and narcissism the compulsive need to be admired and praised undermine one's courage, for one then fights on someone else's conviction rather than one's own.

~Rollo May



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