social media, social avatars, psyche, Facebook, identity, online image
Objective: This paper aims to explore how social media users represent themselves online, and to consider whether this process has inherent potential to impact upon the psyche of the individual. Conclusions: Advanced thinking around social media may exist on an organizational level, but on an individual level there exists a need to catch up, as the psychological dimensions of going online are significant and deserve consideration. Inherent to the experience of using social media is the self selection of favorable material to represent the individual. This process is cumulative, and effectively creates a socially-derived and socially-driven, composite online image (‘social avatar’). Humans notably select their best aspects for presentation to others and the social avatar reflects this tendency, effectively facilitating the creation of a ‘gap’ between online image (representation) and offline identity (substance). The creation of a social avatar should therefore be an important and conscious consideration for all users of social media, not just those individuals already struggling with the task of integrating the multiple facets which make up modern personal identity. Social avatars appear to be an important factor in understanding the inherent potential for social media to affect the psyche/contribute to psychopathology within the individual.