Are people their real selves online?

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Growing up today, in the digital age, differs a lot from when I grew up in the early 90’s. The internet provides many possibilities of self exploration and identity building. The thoughts of this blog post are heavily inspired by Nancy Baym’s book Personal Connections in a Digital Age  – a book I recommend to everyone with an interest in social media.

Multiple identities online

A lot of the discussions around forming relations online is centered around identity. The internet provides possibilities to “be whoever we want to be” and to form multiple identities. If you google yourself you probably will find different versions of yourself: the serious and professional you on LinkedIn and probably a more social, humoristic or creative version of yourself on other social media sites.

Some kids have several accounts on social media. It is interesting to see how one account can be used for talking with the kid’s real friends in school and another one is maybe living a more extravagant lifestyle with an added twist of roleplaying. It is all fun and play – and a way to explore and build your identity online.

Creating the ideal version of yourself online

Being deceptive online with a fake identity is much more about presenting an ideal version of yourself rather than creating a new personality that is far from your true self. We see this all the time on Momio when kids are trying to impress each other, but isn’t it just like most grown-ups do on their social media platforms? Few people are sharing their “real life” on Instagram – the pictures are polished, beautiful and filtered, sometimes far from the truth. On LinkedIn people try to express how great they are and never mention any flaws, because what employer would contact you if you wrote about those?

Baym makes an interesting note: People may lie online, but face-to-face interaction has never guaranteed people being truthful either. I couldn’t agree more. People are trying to be the best versions of themselves outside of social media too. How often have you answered the question “How are you?” in a truthful way when someone asked you? The answer is most of the time the same polite one, no matter how awful your day was: “I am fine thanks, how are you?”.

About the author:

Nathalie Seow, Momio

Nathalie Seow has experience as Swedish Community Manager, Head of Social Media, and Community Supporter at Momio. She worked for Momio from 2011 to 2018. She is a social media geek that loves to explore new trends and social communities online.