Perfection and aggression in social networks - controversial realities
The paradox is part of life but dealing with paradoxes is fundamental to living a life that contemplates at least a certain balance.
Appearances, or personal and social persona have always existed and have been cultivated for a long time, and today they have been consolidated in a unusual way, through social networks.
To look beautiful, rich and well educated, or whatever is better evaluated a given moment, has always been the object of desire. It has always been desired to ascend from a low class to a higher social class, to progress financially, or to establish oneself in a situation of power and prestige, and not always have the means justified the ends, ethically speaking.
Today, however, this desire to "look" better than one really is seems to be more accessible, thanks to the popularity of social networks, and its tools. Transforming someone’s appearance and reality has never been so easy and so accessible to so many, after all, just a smartphone and almost no skill to enhance a photo can create an illusion of dream travel or perfect relationships.
But reality is the opposite. We have never been so happy and successful, apparently speaking, and so depressed and dissatisfied. The perfect images generated in social networks seem to cover up deeper wounds of indifference, abandonment, envy of the fictional perfection of others’ life, and even the cruelty present in various personal and social situations.
The latest elections in Brazil added a new relationship factor in social networks, which once stood in the shadows, the so-called cyberbullying has grown, and the lack of respect was overcome by aggression. Today’s aggression seems to be socially legitimized by governmental power figures and by the freedom of expression, in which expressions of hatred and aggression of all kinds seem to have been legitimized by a large part of the population.
The Internet was no longer a place where the best qualities of each one is exhibited, whether they were real or not, and it became a place where the shadow came to be exposed in the most explicit way as it was possible.
If earlier the internet was a place of exposure of the personal and social Persona, today it became the stage of the personal, social and cultural Shadow in which we live. It seems to me that the Shadow is assuming the role of Persona, becoming part of the first impression that is left on people.
Jung says that Persona is the way we are seen in the world, through the various roles we play in our personal and professional life, and that a flexible and healthy Persona is fundamental so that we can alternate the roles that life requires of us, allowing that we integrate our Shadow.
Jung says that the Shadow carries aspects of our personal and collective unconscious, contemplating the family, social and cultural shadow, and that it needs to be integrated and made conscious, so that we walk towards the process of individuation.
Now, what will we do at this cultural moment where the Shadow takes the place of the Persona, taking our behaviors, not only on social networks, where people usually try to hide their "worst" side, as in "real" life? How to deal with situations where everyone speaks their minds, without worrying about criticism from others or from social criticism?
A society can only exist where there is ethical behavior to be followed, and I think of an ethical reasoning of the simplest and most effective ones I learned as a child: "treat others as you would like to be treated." People who treat themselves poorly do not cause me astonishment, nor disrespectful behavior, after all, I am neither young nor naive to believe that these things do not happen, however, I am surprise by the astonishment aroused by people who treat others badly and expect the others to not retaliate.
We are living in times that some people believe that it is possible to be rude, disrespectful and cruel without being retaliated. Evil not only believes that it can go unpunished, but that it must be accepted without restrictions, and that ethics and good manners are only obligation to others.
We live in a time where self-criticism has never been so necessary. The myth of unconditional love must be broken because it is naive and irrational. Every affective relationship obeys the laws of respect and reciprocity, and anyone who breaks this rule is subject to abandonment or perpetuation of an abusive relationship, where power overcomes affection, and where there is no possibility of growth to either party.
The reputation of Brazilians as cordial people fell to the ground. Today we must face the reality of our own aggression, disloyalty and lack of ethics, which, incidentally, always permeated the "Brazilian way".
When the Shadow is exposed as vigorously as we have seen in recent times, we have the impression that all is lost, that nothing will be as before. In fact, nothing will be as before, once faced with the reality of the Shadow, we have only to analyze it, to face it, and to decide which aspects must be transformed and integrated.
One thing is certain, we can no longer go back and reassume the image we used to have of the ‘Brazilian cordiality’, as it has been collapsed. Cordiality, as part of our persona, no longer has credibility, we need to integrate our own anger, inferiority and "smartness", if we want to recover some trace of true kindness.
Solange Bertolotto Schneider
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Original text in Portuguese, published on the website Mundopsicologos.com