Fakebook – Our Fake Lives Online

Let’s be real, the “us” we portray on social media, isn’t the same “us” that danders around tesco in their jammies or watches Netflix for 8 hours straight. Everything we post has been polished, filtered and approved by 3 friends in the group chat. You don’t just post “whatever”, you make a conscious decision to upload something specific. Out of 56 selfies, you chose to upload that one – even though you might delete it later but you “felt cute” at the time. Out of a million memes, you chose to post that one (which isn’t even funny). And out of all of the giveaways for a free trip to Malibu for you and 4 friends, you chose to share that one – oh but I’m sure this ones definitely real.

Why? Why do we make such an effort to control what gets posted? Because everyone wants to have friends and followers. The aim of the game is give the people what they want so they decide to follow you. So you post what you think people want to see and what you think will get you the most likes and follows; there’s a constant desire to impress. You try 6 different filters, 13 captions and debate with yourself whether or not to post that selfie. People creep their own profiles and do a “detox”, deleting the photos or statuses that they don’t like anymore. They check notifications, count their likes and comments and panic if there’s less than 11 in 5 minutes, because sadly, we live in a society where self esteem and value is determined by this. We let how many strangers like our photo effect how we feel about ourselves. It doesn’t matter if it’s edited beyond recognition, it gets more likes. Do you ever wonder why people don’t look like themselves in their Instagram photos? Because they get more likes on these, so they’re basically told that they’re prettier and more popular this way. It gives people a chance to change their appearance to one that they’re happier with – the way they wished they looked. The way they’re told they should look.

In real life, you decide to be friends with someone based on what they’re like, and online is no different. Your friends, family and anyone who actually knows you, well, knows you – so they know that they like you. But strangers need to gauge who you are and what you’re like based on what you post on your accounts to see if you’re the sort of person that they want to “add” or “follow”. They don’t know you, so they don’t know your flaws, your personality traits or what you look like without makeup. You get a clean slate. You choose what they see and what they know about you. Don’t like the photo? They don’t have to see it. Don’t post it, delete it, remove the tag. Don’t want people to know something about you? Then simply don’t mention it. No one needs to know about your Goth phase in 2008. Thank God.

So, it isn’t always a bad thing to hide some things or be a bit ‘fake’ online, and not just with photos. In private conversations, you can say what you want and openly express how you feel, especially with controversial topics. But on social media, you have to be a bit more cautious. Say something out loud and there’s no real “proof” unless someone’s recording, but put something online and there it is, a lil digital paper trail. As we all know from FILM, once something’s been uploaded, it’s up forever. You can delete it if you want, but how many people already saw it? And who knows how many screenshots have been taken by then?

Obviously, everyone has an opinion and the right to express it too, but there’s certain things which are probably better left un-typed. You wouldn’t walk down the street shouting racist or homophobic comments, so why do the equivalent on your ‘wall’?

It goes for anywhere, but especially here in the north of Ireland, you have to be really careful about what you post in relation to politics or religion. You pretty much have to accept that you’ll be judged on what soccer team you support, what passport you have, what you call the artificial state that you live in and what you do on the 12th of July. It’s the same in the UK with who voted ‘leave’ and who voted ‘remain’, and in America with who voted for Trump (and more importantly, why?). If people know where we stand on these sort of things, they’ll judge us and it will effect their opinion of us; but online, if we don’t post about it, then they won’t know and so will judge us based on other things like what we’re like, not what we believe in.

Let’s be real, we’ve all googled our own names to see what comes up. And most of the time, it’s nothing bar old Bebo accounts or other people with the same name (shoutout to the 134,000 other Niamh Murrays rolling about). But what else comes up are our social media accounts. So, if someone’s doing a lil dig on you like Joe from ‘You’ checking up on your woman Beck, that’s all they really have to find out about us, that and the primary school photos from the Andytown News website. Yikes.

Aside from stalkers, potential employers are going to be doing a little snooping on you too, to see what you’re really like. Even they know that you can’t really gauge what someone’s like from applications or CVs, and no one’s their true self in interviews. They want to see if you’re the sort of person they want working for them and representing the company, so what they see can affect whether or not you get a shortlisted, an interview, or the job even. If something negative or offensive gets broadcasted on social media, it’s going to put off employers and customers too. I mean, footage of a company executive singing a sectarian song doesn’t exactly scream “professional and trustworthy source”. But that’s hypothetical, of course…

I reckon that’s why a lot of people are getting and using LinkedIn. Having a social media especially for networking and professional use means people don’t have to worry as much about what they post or hide hide on other accounts. It gives employers a first port of call too, they can see your LinkedIn and think “hmm, doesn’t seem like a bad spud” and give up, rather than keep digging and finding your drunk alter ego’s Instagram account (yeah, you know who you are). See, there’s sort of an unspoken hierarchy of how “behind the scenes” your social media accounts are:

  • LinkedIn is professional, so you post about achievements and current affairs.
  • Instagram is basically where you post photos of yourself and your friends to show off your contour and social life, it’s basically all for show, like a polished version of you.
  • Facebook is mostly used for memes, but this is where people feel most free to post what they want. They’re not afraid to say how they feel on current affairs and political matters, or when they’re drunk.
  • Snapchat is where you can be your true self and send ugly selfies where you look like a thumb, super behind the scenes.

Saying all this, how ‘fake’ you are depends how much you care what other people think about you; some people really don’t care and still post statuses and photos which are pretty questionable. But, they’re doing what they want on their accounts. Don’t like it? Unfollow. Unfriend. If you don’t like what they do, say or are like, then you wouldn’t be friends with them in real life, so why be online?

Fake News

Fake news. We’ve all seen it. It’s all over Facebook, Twitter and other online platforms. It’s become a lot more common recently, and a lot weirder. It’s basically when people just make up stories for no real reason. Like when 12 year old boys talk about how they fought an 18 year old felon and broke his arm, or a wee girl with a ‘mysterious’ rockstar boyfriend that no one has ever seen. People just lie.

Sometimes, it’s pretty obvious when it’s fake news, like “Nigerian President Died and Replaced by Clone”. Yes, that is an actual example, like come on. But, sometimes it’s hard to tell whether it is fake or not. Do you ever wonder why all of those promised new McDonald’s McFlurry flavours never got released? Why you never saw that 80 litre tank of Strongbow Dark Fruits in your local Tesco for a tenner? Okay, that one should’ve been obvious.

Now not all ‘fake news’ is the same. There’s clickbait (the old “Doctors HATE Her” articles about how to lose 18 lbs in 3 seconds; propaganda (90% of Brexit’s Leave campaign lol); parody/satire (basically sounds like it could be true but is really just someone having a laugh) then there’s bad journalism and misleading headlines. They all pretty much just make people believe lies for various reasons; some want you to try a new £30 meal replacement, download a virus app, sway your political views, or just change your opinion on something. Nothing screams ‘great political party’ like one that has to lie and alienate the public into thinking that it’s better, does it?

Of course, we’ve all seen fake news designed to make celebrities look bad, like The Sun claiming Noel Edmonds was moving to New Zealand because he refused to give them an interview. I know, it makes no sense to me either, as if moving country is the ultimate revenge. But what’s caught my attention a lot recently, is fake news that’s designed to cause negative views and opinions at certain groups or about certain issues. Here’s some examples I’ve seen on my Facebook newsfeed:

“Feminists call for gender neutral Santa”

“Feminists call for babies to be changed to ‘theybies'”

“Transgender community call for Trans James Bond”

“LGBT adding ‘P’ for ‘pedosexual'”

“Muslim refugee shoots 15 people in nightclub”

Why would feminists campaign for equal pay, an end to FGM, child and forced marriages, rape and abuse when there’s a Santa at stake? Who cares about rights when there’s a fat man in a red suit to be had?

Why would members of the transgender community want equal treatment and less discrimination and abuse when they could have James Bond? Let’s put all that aside for a buff man in a tight suit.

Better than James Bond

These stories, although fake, are harmful. They are targeted at already controversial groups in society, who face backlash on a daily basis: feminists, transgender people, the LGBTQ+ community, Muslims – even vegans are victims of this. These stories are designed to make people roll their eyes and complain about these groups. They’re meant to give these groups bad reputations and keep them and the issues they fight for a taboo.

Some people brand all Muslims as ‘terrorists’ because of the actions of Islamic extremists like ISIS. They face so much discrimination and sectarianism already, they don’t to have another FAKE ‘reason’ to have people treat them unfairly.

Feminists fight for the equal treatment and rights of females across the world. But how can they campaign for change for serious issues like rape, when their FAKE association with Santa is grabbing the headlines? How can they encourage people to get behind them and support their work when no one’s taking them seriously and people think that they’re just “being awkward”?

These negative stories are detracting from the positive ones about these groups. So when people do a little research into what they do or are campaigning for, they’re met with these bogus headlines. Muslims are branded as terrorists, feminists are branded as matriarchal men-haters, the LGBTQ+ community are branded as attention seekers, vegans are branded as, well, vegans. Anyway. These are just some of the groups who are victims of fake news stories, there are of course a lot more, but these are just some of the recent ones I’ve personally seen.

Fake news is more than a few computer hackers having a laugh and pulling a prank on the general public. It’s more than ‘satire’ and sarcasm. These fake stories are malicious. They’re giving close-minded people ammunition and supposed “reasons” to hate others and what they stand for.

So who’s writing these stories? Sure, it’s individuals with a lot of time on their hands. But it’s also established sites and Facebook pages. We all know that you can’t trust everything you read online and you shouldn’t always take things at face value, but the fact is that there’s always going to be people who do believe it. These “news” stories may be a “joke”, but it’s not funny if it leads to further discrimination and exclusion against a group and their beliefs.

So yes, be careful what you read and what you believe. Before judging a group based off a UniLAD post, do some research and see what they’re actually about. Then by all means, judge away. Don’t share fake news stories. It’s literally the online version of spreading vicious rumours. It may seem funny and like a joke to you, but it’s actually causing harm to others.

And no, Dominos aren’t launching a 40″ pizza for £20. Spoiler alert.