Identity Crisis: Online versus In-Person

In the current realm of social media, it’s easy to claim oneself as anything they want. Through the internet, you can create an online-version of yourself, who has an insurmountable number of talents, skills, hobbies, professions, etc.

And in terms of personality, you can be funny, political, philosophical, dramatic.

You can be as passive as you want or as aggressive as you want; Say little to nothing or tweet every 27 seconds.

Basically, anything goes. Every post is fair game.

However, the downside to this is determining authenticity and credibility.

In my Freshmen year of college, I wrote a paper (which I still take a great deal of pride in) about the impact that Wikipedia has on education and the way students learn. I wrote this paper 4 years ago, and I’m even more blown away by how quickly information is relayed over the internet.

There are almost no surprises anymore. We know everything about everything and everyone.

Getting back to the topic of online-versions of people, there are two ways to look at it:

  1. Social Media simplifies the way we get to know people
  2. Social Media complicates the way we get to know people

To start with the first point of view: Social Media simplifies the way we get to know people

There are a few things…

Getting the dirt on someone nowadays is very accessible. A majority of people across the globe have at least one online profile of some sort, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Youtube, Vine, OKCupid…the number of platforms are endless. Even if they didn’t create a profile themselves, the chances are that there is a website out there that has already created one for them.

Gathering information online and piecing it together to form a hypothesis about what a person is really like is not exactly rocket science.

Similar to a way a person carries themselves in real life, such as the way they walk, talk, sit, etc., is the same as the way a person carries themselves over the internet. The pictures they post, the links they share, the statuses they write. Most people can draw assumptions off of someone based solely by looking at their profile picture. And then there’s the information that they post.

The “About Me” section is critical. No one wants to seem too much of a certain way, so they try to sum themselves up in as many different descriptions as possible.

People include their job, musical preferences, the school they went to, the kind of food they like, the movies they enjoy…the list goes on.

This is the part that simplifies everything.

Many girl friends of mine create pros and cons lists to evaluate certain situations. Typically, it’s for the guys they date. Here’s an example:

Pros:

  • Has a good job
  • Is athletic
  • Likes Mexican food

Cons:

  • Too short
  • Just got out of a relationship
  • Lives too far away

It’s easy for anyone to weed out the traits that we don’t like before we even meet person

And onto the second point of view: Social Media complicates the way we get to know people

The tricky part is that it’s really unfair to judge a person that you’ve never even met in person.

Again, similar to the way a person carries themselves in real life, we can make the same judgments in person as we do online.

But as the saying goes, “You can’t judge a book by its cover”

You always have to give people the benefit of the doubt. Chances are that you are wrong about them…or right. It can go either direction, but that’s exactly why you have to see for yourself.

Disclaimer: Meeting people is at your own discretion. I am not an advocate for online dating or anything of that sort.

In summation, you never really know what a person is like. Sometimes there are people that you have known in-person for years, but still haven’t quite learned everything. It’s impossible.

We’re all complicated individuals. Every experience has molded us differently. So again, you have to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. People could surprise you and like I said, it could go either direction.

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