How Digital Personas Have Reinvented The 'First Impression'

by Marisa Strauss

"You can tell a lot about someone by a first impression," is a phrase with which I'm sure we are all familiar.

This saying used to be based on physical interactions that happened in real time, but then social media came into the picture.

If we went back six or seven years, we'd be reminded first impressions used to be verbal interactions, not entering a name into a search bar.

Before you met anyone, you had no idea what to expect, and your initial meeting would tell a lot about how this relationship was going to go.

We used to meet one another without any preconceived notion of who the other person was. This made things interesting.

This no longer exists. There are rare opportunities for "first impressions" because your social media profiles are accessible summaries of who you are, or at least how you want to be portrayed.

When we meet people today, chances are, we've already done some research about them. This is pretty creepy, but a reality, nonetheless.

Think about it: You see a hot guy at the bar, and your friend says she kind of knows him. So, what do you do besides ask her his last name?

You probably don't go over and say hello. Instead, you search for him on Facebook, see if you have mutual friends and then find his Instagram and pray it's not private. You're looking into him and determining if he's up to your standards without ever speaking one word.

We know exactly what we're getting ourselves into before we're even into it, and it seems this is how Gen-Y likes it.

We no longer need a physical introduction to determine if we want to keep talking to someone because we base our compatibility on a digital footprint. This goes for both friendships and romantic relationships.

Your good friend from high school wants you to meet her best friend from college. What is the first thing you say?

"What's her name? I want to look her up."

We have eliminated the possibility of being surprised because our curiosities can be instantly satisfied, so why would we wait?

I understand the perks of being able to look anyone up at the speed of light. It's easy, convenient and makes you feel more comfortable knowing a bit about a person before moving forward.

On the other hand, is a social media profile an accurate representation of who someone is? Is it fair to let a timeline of "highlights," silly tweets or raunchy Instagram pictures define someone? Is this the new first impression? How accurate is it?

I don't think a virtual profile can truly depict a person. We all know how deceiving social media can be. We use it to enhance our realities, but we don't use it to live our lives.

There is a great deal people do not share with social media, like sickness, internal or external conflicts, hopes, dreams, etc. People aren't very vocal about what they want out of life via social media. We use digital platforms to display our peaks, never our pits.

The irony here is, you don't form a meaningful relationship based on how "cool" you are.

You form a true connection when it's based on the values you share, the goals you strive to reach and struggles you've conquered. It could be fair to say using social media as the new first impression is selling us short.

You could be missing out on interacting with someone awesome because you thought a profile was weird, or boring, or whatever it is you perceived.

Comparably, you could be giving the wrong person the time of day simply because he or she appears fun in an online persona.

The original first impression meant going into an interaction with an open mind, but our new version means judging someone without ever getting to know him or her.

If we want to find relationships of actual substance, we need to speak with words, not search with them.