PERCEPTION IS REALITY: THE LOOKING GLASS SELF Individuals develop their concept of self by observing how they are perceived by others, a concept Cooley coined as the “looking-glass self.” According to sociologist Charles Horton Cooley The looking-glass self describes the process wherein individuals base their sense of self on how they believe others view them Using social interaction as a type of “mirror,” people use the judgments they receive from others to measure their own worth, values, and behavior. According to Self, Symbols, & Society, Cooley’s theory is notable because it suggests that self-concept is built not in solitude, but rather within social settings. no·ta·ble worthy of attention or notice; remarkable. According to Society in Focus, the process of discovering the looking-glass self occurs in three steps: An individual in a social situation imagines how they appear to others. That individual imagines others’ judgment of that appearance. The individual develops feelings about and responds to those perceived judgments. In practice, the process might look like this: The rise of social media makes the process of the looking-glass self infinitely more complex Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and the like make it possible to connect with others in ways never before imagined. However, this exposure has led to an everincreasing number of “mirrors,” The cyber self is the version of him or herself a person chooses to present on a digital platform. A person may possess many versions of the cyber self. Example: He or she may present a professional self on LinkedIn, a casual self on Twitter, or an artistic self on Pinterest. These unique qualities of the cyber self raise a host of psychological issues and concerns Individuals may experience a greater sense of urgency to return to or remain in digital spaces. All these consequences are more severe when digital users are young or in their teens. *However, changes to the social self via digital platforms are not always steeped in such negative implications A study published in the Journal of Social Media and Society, for example, describes a host of positive outcomes that arise from the digital looking-glass self. • • • • • • • • Results included: *A sense of gained confidence *Enhanced creativity *Overcoming of major social hurdles *Increased sense of selfworth *A strengthened professional image *Feelings of altruism and “helping others” through their content *Interacting in a positive social space When YouTube content creators were interviewed about their content-creation practices and its influence on their sense of self, they offered a range of positive responses. Whether digital platforms are ultimately a help or a hindrance to self-identity remains to be seen. The human mind is still very much a frontier of modern science.