What Games Can Teach Us About Being “Real” in the Digital Age
Chris Stedman speaking
Sometimes social media can feel like one big game—where getting likes or favorites can feel like scoring points, and getting verified or gaining followers can feel like leveling up. But it’s not always that facile: social media can also be a hugely imaginative and aspirational space, a place to dream and try out versions of ourselves that don’t yet exist, as we so often do when playing games. Online, we can experiment with ourselves in the same way that one inhabits a character in a video game with personality traits we don’t yet possess, or as so many of us did in the imagination games we played as children. But, as in games, there can be an ease with which our online selves can be less accountable; we can just hit “reboot” and rebrand ourselves if the current iteration isn’t working. In this light, our desire to play “make-believe” and reconstruct ourselves online isn’t some new behavioral phenomenon brought on by the social media age, but an expression of deeply human instincts we’ve had since childhood. What can we learn about ourselves by looking at the playful aspects of social media, and how can we use it in a more intentional and honest way?