Abigail Thompson
Social Media Week London
The Truth Behind The Profile Picture

Can you remember life without hashtags, DMs and emojis? When we had to call friends on their landlines to arrange when and where to meet, hoping they’d arrive at the right time and right place?

It’s hard to believe that only a decade ago social media was a nascent trend, and yet it is now an established phenomenon that most of us can’t imagine living without.

The wonder of social media has benefited modern society greatly. One of the most powerful uses of social media is to raise awareness and unite people for a good cause. The ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ engaged 28 million people worldwide and raised an enormous $98.2m for healthcare charity ALS Association in just one month.

In both our personal and professional lives, social media provides us with a practical and largely effortless tool to stay connected. Reports show that 55% of people use social media to stay in touch with friends.

But we are living in increasingly virtual times and, paradoxically, social media is actually making us less social in the real world. Communication has developed rapidly from the personal and involved art of letter writing to clicking on a ‘like’ symbol on Facebook.

Although an enormous 93 percent of communication is based on non-verbal body language, increasingly we are choosing to communicate through sharing short form social content (status posts, images and videos) online rather than face-to-face.


So while we think the internet and social media enables us to be better connected, we are essentially more disconnected than ever before. From the carefully crafted selfies we take to the selective images we choose to post from our wealth of digital photos, the online world gives us the opportunity to curate an image of ourselves that we view as ‘the ideal’. This need to present oneself as near to perfect as possible is becoming the norm.

Truthfully, we don’t always know what’s going on behind a filtered and carefully curated online persona. To many, the heart-breaking stories we often see in the media about suicide, and the links to their use of social media in the weeks running up to their decision to take their own lives, highlights the way in which self-curated online identity can so easily conceal the saddening reality. The tragic news of actor and comedian Robin Williams’s suicide in 2014 reminded us of how inaccurate public perception can be.

The flip side: social media forums such as Black Dog Tribe and Elefriends, run by UK-based charities Sane and Mind respectively, provide platforms for people to communicate freely about their condition, behind the safety of their computer screens, as well as connect with others who can relate to them or who can provide comfort and counsel.

So should we be limiting our use of social media for a better quality of life, or is it actually providing much-needed support? Join our Social Media Week session where a panel of experts will be sharing their insights.

The truth behind the (profile) picture: does social media affect your mental health?
9-10am, Thursday 17th September.

Sainsbury Wing Theatre, The National Gallery
An event for Social Media Week London 2015. [Register for your free ticket]

For the latest from Social Media Week London 2015, follow @OgilvyUK and @ogilvydo on Twitter and #OgilvySMW.

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