In life, we are different people for different reasons. At home, you could be a mess of a human being, while in work you are a functioning member of society that sell’s their soul to the corporate brand. It should be almost universal at this stage that the person we are when we fall in love with someone is different to the person we are when a relationship eventually comes to the point where you are comfortable in the knowledge you can sit on the sofa with your hands down your boxers drinking a beer. There is a general lie we all want to believe, and that is we have to ‘find ourselves’. Pulp’s hit song ‘Common People’ is a great example of how upper classes use lower classes to find themselves in some vainglorious attempt to slum it to be closer to the ‘reality’ of life. Slumming it seems to have some notion of nobility attached to it.
James Cameron’s Titanic was one such film that effectively told the story of Rose using Jack to discover herself as she entered a state of an identity crisis. Slumming it in this instance looks romanticized. Funny enough, if the Titanic didn’t hit an iceberg and landed in New York, it is unlikely Rose would live in squalor and shit for too long before returning to her fiancé, because that is the key divider between those who see slumming it as noble and those who live in it, most of us don’t get to leave at the whim of feeling reality sink in after the surrealism evaporates.
A Zelig is different though. Duality is common enough, but a Zelig is not concept of duality, but rather a multitude of different personalities based on the situation presenting itself. Zelig was originally a character in a Woody Allen film by the same name. He was called the Chameleon because he could change his appearance and personality to suit the conversation and tone of the event he was attending.
In one instance he embodies the sentiments and accent of a Democrat, and the next he is a staunch Republican. When he stands around obese men, he himself turns obese, or when he is with doctors, he becomes one. He has the appearance and acts the part but he isn’t any of these things. His own opinions and personality have been buried deep inside him and instead of meeting the world with conflict of his own stance, he would rather fit in by any means, even if that means becoming a Nazi.
Social media has a similar effect on people. It is quite rare to meet someone with a genuine opinion that isn’t setting itself to appeal to as many people as possible. There are very few YouTubers who make any content without the end result being endless views. Social media is full of people with opinions that sound the same, but are slightly tweaked to look original. People would rather fit in to trends and garner views than make original content with the purpose of being informative or simply entertaining.
Looking at the current trends of social media and YouTube, I get the feeling most content is a weird form of fan fiction of the original content. The core elements still exist, but it is all perverted for the desires of the person reading and writing the content. From individuals to news and media outlets, everyone is in a long circle jerk, except they are grabbing each other’s dicks.
The obsession of optimizing SEO is baffling. If you search Freelance or Upwork for freelance jobs, you will find many listings asking Freelance writers to rewrite existing articles that can pass plagiarism software and get a better SEO than the original. This is far more common than you might expect and a lot of media sources do this. Some journalist would argue they are taking inspiration from the core story and adding their own take on it. I argue that if you cannot find a new angle or uncover something new in the story, you shouldn’t write about it to regurgitate an article that is clearly rewritten from an original for the sake of raking in the views.
Of course, it comes back to the click-per-view age we live in. A business wants as many views on their page as possible to earn from their ad revenue. Only issue with that is people like me and a hell of a lot of others are using Adblock. The Opera browser already has a built in adblock and a VPN. This means you don’t have to watch the marketing circle jerk of advertisements and they can’t gather information on either.
Truth be told, I would rather never meet someone I have met online, not because I’m afraid I’ll lose a kidney or getting roofied, but because they would probably be completely different to the person I met online. The feeling of anonymity is a powerful tool to allow us to freely express ourselves, even if that self is nothing like what we pertain to be in reality. There is a reason places with more anonymity are far more disturbing and it isn’t because that is the type of people it attracts. The scary but real truth is that places that give anonymity allow people to cut loose and go nuts. These people are not the disturbed teenagers we see on documentaries about the internet, instead they are ordinary people with day jobs.
Cyberpsychology is a new study of how our interaction with technology has changed us. The majority of research and study in the area is idiotic and reads like a parent trying to tell their kid to pause an online game. The area baffles people who have never been initiated into it and using Facebook, Twitter or anything else isn’t inherently dangerous, unless you make it that way. There are privacy settings, a block button and you can simply delete people from a friends list anyway. The internet is only as bad as our society is. With that said I would rather have my wallet stolen than my Facebook or email account, that would be a real nightmare.
Cyberpsychology research blames social media for depression, social isolationism, low self-esteem and eat disorders. The internet and social media is nothing more than a mirror of our society, to be angry at social media is like being angry with someone who took a photograph of poverty and finding the fact they took the photograph the issue and not the poverty.
The fact that people can have multiple personalities online is nothing shocking, as I said at the start of this article, most people lead multiple lives both at home and at work. Our true nature is usually left bottled up inside ourselves and the internet is nothing more than a medium to let it out. Being an internet Zelig is no less strange than being a Zelig in our daily lives. At least with the medium of social of media we can feel we are the people we want to be and not what society wholly expects of us. The Zelig of reality is one that must fit into the social etiquette of their surroundings, while the online Zelig fits into the role of the person they want to be, unless they are being attention whores.
The best YouTubers are the ones who are genuine in their views and behave as they believe their true selves to be. Being a Zelig on the web can be liberating, even if it does bring out the darker elements of your personality. In the film, Zelig’s problem was that he was changing his personality so often to fit in, he had forgotten what his own was. That problem still manifests itself today in our daily life, but online it is the opposite. We change our personality to fit our own desires. This phenomenon presents itself as both positive and negative. Positive because many of us online find our voices and negative because some people are incredibly messed up. Some people get involved in Catfishing. This is the act of stealing profile pictures from other people and pretending to be someone else to coerce people online into a relationship. It happens more often than you might imagine.
It is odd that we today place such a heavy emphasis on the dangers of using the internet, when those same dangers have simply been carried over from daily life. The only difference is that in reality we aren’t always who we want to be, but online we can be the people we really wish to be. So be a Zelig and find your voice online.