How Online Identities Have Altered Our In-Person Perception Of Ourselves

by Natasha Artwell

Our online selves can be created and perfectly crafted exactly how we want them to be seen. We choose our profile pictures; we write our bios. We choose which content to upload and when to upload it. We choose which filter to use, and we can decide if we wish to adjust the settings.

In real life, however, our settings are harder to alter, as profiles face the naked truth.

My online self is cool, calm and collected. My online self is always happy, always at great events with great people, eating great food and witnessing the most beautiful sights.

My online self is always dressed accordingly and never feels sad. My online self wears makeup, has new shoes and always looks, at least, presentable. And if all else fails, well, there’s always my virtual best friends, Lo-fi and X-pro, who will correct any imperfections in a split second and with only one single touch of my thumb.

Like-for-like, follow-for-follow, likes-per-minute, hashtags (#selfie, #ootd, #foodporn), double tap, scroll, explore, stalk and compare. Welcome to the world of our online selves, where we put on some of our greatest performances for an audience full of people we know, and people we don't know.

Last Sunday night, I sat on my sofa wrapped up in my duvet with the television on but not watching it. I had a glass of wine to aid the notion of Monday morning quickly approaching, and I found myself 52 weeks deep into a stranger's Instagram page.

I didn’t know this girl, but I had just scrolled through a year of her life. I didn’t even know someone who knew her.

In all honesty, I couldn’t actually tell you how I even got to her page in the first place, but it didn’t matter; I had found her and she was beautiful. Not only was she beautiful, she had the best life ever. She had pictures from all over the world. Her face was flawless, her clothes stylish and don’t even get me started on her perfect-10 figure. She just appeared to have it all.

As I clicked out of her profile, an lit-up heart appeared towards the bottom right-hand side of my screen -- the familiar indication that a post has been liked. After at least 20 minutes of what can only be described as cyberstalking, I got to thinking about how our online identity is perceived against our real life identities.

Are our online identities how we would like to be perceived in real life? We can manipulate our filters and we can manipulate our photos, settings and surroundings, but we can’t manipulate our core or our truest selves.

I pondered on the idea of meeting this girl in person; would she be the same amazing individual I had created in my head solely through observing her images? I then wondered about the perception my online self was giving off and if it was true to who I am.

Then, I got immediately annoyed with myself for wasting valuable minutes observing the page of someone else, when I could have been doing something productive for my real self, in that very real moment.

The world is becoming a social media-driven place with an emphasis on our online identities, and it will only continue to create a spectacle of how we wish to be perceived versus who we really are. It's a façade, but a façade that can only last for so long.

This is just a gentle reminder that it is important to look after our real life identities before we look after our online ones.

These things may make you feel good for a minute or so, maybe even give you a little rush, but hearts and a number of "likes" do not validate your worth or your character. It may provide you with momentary happiness, but it cannot compare to the happiness in the real world.

This is not to say that our online identities are entirely fabricated or just plain false; there are elements of truth behind these images. But it’s important not to get too caught up in the performance of other people’s spectacles. Remember, to a certain extent, we are all putting on some sort of show because we will only upload what we want our audience to see.

When the show stops and the curtain draws to a close, however, it is the real you who has to deal with what is happening backstage. That’s why it is important to make sure you are getting the most attention first.

Photo Courtesy: We Heart It