I was scrolling through facebook (and breaking perhaps the only New Year’s Resolution I made, to stop wasting so much GODDAMN TIME on social media) when I came across this gem. People Who Post About Fitness on Facebook Are Likely Narcissists, study finds. Really? I thought. How are gym selfies any worse than regular selfies?
But here I am. Guess I’m a narcissist.
Articles like these are floating around all the time; millennials are frequently banged for being the most self-centered generation to pop up on the planet. But here’s the thing: the data for this study that the article sites is actually a thing. A big thing. As in this data that they glean from your facebook account allows them to come up with a very comprehensive picture of who you are. Which is important- because that data is being used. In fact, it was used by a company that Trump hired to help run his campaign: Cambridge Analytica. Alexander Nix, the CEO of Cambridge Analytica, boasts that “We have profiled the personality of every adult in the United States of America—220 million people“. They know who you are. And how to get to you.
I was very curious about all this stuff. Curious enough to let the thing run over my own profile (not that that hasn’t been done and I haven’t already been “profiled”) to see what they came up with. I didn’t like it very much. It was like reading a creepily accurate zodiac trait analysis. You can try it for yourself here: https://applymagicsauce.com/ never fear, you’re not just blithely giving them your personal information. They already have that.
I started using facebook when I was 18- before I really had an idea of what all this meant. I was still trying to figure myself out. I’ve been tempted lately with all the negative information out there to delete it. But the information is already there. So here’s the thing: I could just stay off. Cut it out of my life and stay away. But social media is also a tremendous opportunity. Sure, I share pictures of myself on bikes and at the gym and running races. And a lot of my friends do. But so many of us use it as a tool to reach out to a larger community: people share their sweaty gym selfies and exercise photos and where they like to run to give and get support.
Living in a rural area like I do, its a way to stay connected to other people who enjoy the activities that I like, and, in a sense, to feel like part of team. I’m a member of a triathlete club, a trail-running group, and several other outdoorsy/exercise related groups on facebook. The posts that I see in these groups offer support, inspiration and motivation. When I first moved and didn’t know anyone close by, these groups helped me feel less isolated.
It is easy to demonize social media, taking selfies, and “over-sharing” via the internet. It’s also easy to become disheartened, to feel isolated and disempowered, especially in the tumultuous social and political environment that we are now living in. So this is my response- I’m going to keep taking selfies and sharing them. I am going to be conscious of the presence that I have on social media and the image that I project of myself. And I am going to use social media as a tool of empowerment: to support and share, to educate and be educated, to take part in the reciprocal responsibility and privilege it is to be part of a community. We can either let them use this stuff to tear us apart or we can use it to connect to one another.