Me, or my Online Identity?

(Apologies in advance for a long post!) A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece that many people related to, titled “Behind the scenes of Life”. It explored something a friend brought to my attention – we tend to compare everyone else’s high points to our high-, low- & in-between-points.

Social media has a way of exaggerating this. Or rather, the way we use social media sites tends to emphasise the contrast between my own troubles and insecurities, and everyone else’s oh-so-perfect lives, which leads to a bit of a ‘virtual identity crisis’.  Since we connect with so many people online that we don’t physically meet up with, this notion becomes more interesting.

I asked some friends on Google+ to give me an idea of what they perceived my identity to be. Two friends responded with some in-depth thoughts, and it is based on their insights that I can share this with you today.

Daily Life

identity1
At our school garden fair last year.

The opinion of my daily life was built on what I have chosen to say about it and how often I post. According to what I post, I am either a fulltime creative, or have an evening job. Because I try not to go overboard with posting new things, even if I am at the computer from morning to early afternoon, it was thought that I “hold a fulltime job and/or are a fulltime student,” and this opinion overrode the previous one.

In reality, I work part-time as a teacher (but worked as a full-time classroom teacher for the past few years) from about 3pm to 8pm. Mornings are for creative writing, blogging, doing the housework, and occasionally meeting up with friends.

I sometimes practice the ukulele or guitar in this time, and am trying to make time for drawing. On rough days, mornings are spent convincing myself that I am capable and ready to face the big, wide world outside my own head.

 Age, Ethnicity, Family…

Dinner with friends on holiday - I can be normal sometimes.
Dinner with friends on holiday – I can be normal sometimes.

Age was pretty close at “mid to late 20s” (I’m 24) but ethnicity was a tricky one. For all intents and purposes I’m a Kiwi, culturally speaking, but in reality I’m an English/Indian/Portuguese/Irish mix. So that was a bit of a trick question (sorry, Amanda & Joy!).

 Relationship history was also accurate (I have had some, uh, interesting relationships, and definitely been hurt), but I am not single or in a ‘new’ relationship. I’ve been with my partner for nine months (so a young relationship, perhaps, but not a new one), and we were close friends before that. I do currently live alone, though.

At my parents' Silver Wedding Anniversary this year.
At my parents’ Silver Wedding Anniversary this year.

Family was interesting. One friend thought I come from a ‘broken’ family, based on a post about unrealistic expectations. I guess I don’t write about them much, and so it naturally leaves more to the imagination. While my grandfather was like a parent to me, I came from a pretty stable family – mum’s a teacher, dad’s an accountant, and my brother and sister are both students (I’m the oldest). One dog, two cars and a vege patch in the garden – everything but the white picket fence, really. I also grew up with my granddad, “Pa” who is very special to me.

I think the accuracy of demographics is based on how much you specifically share about your family & relationships, as well as photographs – neither of which I have much of (read: more personal life stuff to come!)

Hobbies

At Russell on the ukulele :)
At Russell on the ukulele 🙂

What was interesting about this perception was not the activities in question, but the frequency of them. They’re my hobbies, I enjoy them, so I like sharing them with you guys. However, the amount I write about them is very different to how much I actually do them (the amount I write about them is how much I’d like to be doing them). I’d venture a guess that it’s the same for you, right?

The accuracy of this is based on how much – or rather, how little – we talk about our hobbies.

Personality

Very real, and very cheesy. Cos everything's better with cheese.
Very real, and very cheesy. ‘Cause everything’s better with cheese.

This one was pretty accurate, indicating to me that my personal voice really comes through, which I’m really happy about. I’d like you to be able to connect with a real-as-possible me, not a persona hidden behind a false image, thank-you-very-much. I “want to be real about who [I am]”, as one friend stated.

I make an effort to write how I speak (with slightly better use of the English language, and the exception of how-to posts like this one), and share the raw, real version of me with you. This does take an effort, but I think it’s important that we begin to realise that we’re not alone in our struggles and insecurities, and that is why my personality and my voice come through so accurately.

What are your thoughts about online identities? I am looking forward to hearing some interesting thoughts about this one.

And what about YOUR online identity? How well does it line up with you in day-to-day life?

15 thoughts on “Me, or my Online Identity?

  1. It sounds a little silly, but I often liken online identity and real life identity to that of superheroes. It is kind of like, ‘which is the true identity, Clark Kent or Superman? Bruce Wayne and Batman?’

    There is a section in Plato’s ‘The Republic’ which tells the story of a young shepherd named Gyges who, after an earthquake, discovers a ring which makes him invisible. He uses this ring for his own personal gain and eventually kills the king and seduces the queen. It is an allegory which asks if a moral person would become immoral if they had anonymity. I think, in many ways, the internet is Gyges’ ring; it will make us invisible and protect our identity so we can act in ways we would much prefer to act in the real world. So I believe that our internet selves are the closest to who we really are than our real world selves.

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    1. Wow – there have been a whole lot of insights in these comments. Keep it coming, guys!

      Superhero identities are not a bad analogy, Ben.
      What makes this more interesting for me, as I have mentioned in another reply, is that there are people I know both online & offline, and so, to align with your Plato reference, I cannot use Gyges’ ring to its potential. In fact, I can’t really use it at all. I like that.

      Perhaps we can reflect on our honesty & personal freedom with our online friends, and begin to bring that realness into our offline relationships?

      Something to think about 🙂

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  2. Mmmm…have to think about that one! I think we probably only portray ourselves as we’d like to be…most of the time, anyway. i doubt if any of us make a point of revealing the quirks and qualities we don’t like so much in ourselves, though I daresay they sometimes peep out despite our best efforts at keeping them tucked away.
    Good, thought-provoking post, Zee.

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    1. Oh yes. There are definitely things that I don’t say (like in any real relationship), but the more real I am with you guys, the more these things peep out unintentionally.

      Thank you for your insights, Christine.

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  3. When I write a comment on G+ I often ask, “gee, where are the guys?” : )
    You have Heart, Zee, which makes you so very human. You do your best is shown, you do it because you are loving who you are and upping the anty each moment. Also you know to write articles like this in order to let go the desperation (insecurities and yuck stuff) that lay beneath your core. Then people like me can read them, answer them sincerely thus letting go some of our own yuck Knowing somehow in our own core that you provided a means. Thanks. Bottom line is you are a swell people to know and I got that from when you 1st showed up.
    Blessings

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    1. Thank you, Frank, for your touching comment. I think you made me blush!

      My aim this year is to focus on me, figure out which direction I want to head in, and slowly chip away at my outside until the real me finally showed through. The fact that I can help other people through my own processing is fantastic!

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  4. That’s a really interesting post – thanks for sharing. The bit about your personality was really thought provoking. It does take a great deal of effort to genuinely be honest about the ‘self’ that you share.
    I did something similar on my blog a while back, although not as in depth as you. I feel like I’m a much nicer person on line as I’m talking about the things I love with people that share them. There doesn’t feel like there’s much space for that in my real world – especially as I do a high pressure job full time.

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    1. And thank you for leaving your thoughts, Debbie 🙂

      I will definitely read that post – could you send me the direct URL for it?

      That’s an interesting point, it is easier to be ‘nice’ online, and much easier to follow the old advice of ‘say something nice or don’t say anything at all’. I’m a teacher so I’m definitely nice to them!

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  5. Food for thought … a very interesting post. I suppose you can depist yourself in any way you want online, but the more you communicate with someone that you get to look behind the facade, a bit like real life. I think you divulve more online as the screen affords you some anonymity. 🙂

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    1. That is a great point. I think I did that a bit when I first experienced blogging a few years ago, but now what I share online is stuff I have also shared in person.

      It also makes it interesting having some friends that I interact with regularly BOTH online and in person – they keep me real 🙂

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  6. That’s a good question, Zee. I’ll have to think about that. I tend to tell more about myself on Facebook rather than my blogs. Although my Portugal blog is fairly detailed, it took place long ago and not in the country I live in now. And you are the second woman I’ve met who is called, “Zee.” The other one lives in the Ukraine.

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    1. I definitely tend to tell more on Facebook – that’s where I connect with most of my ‘real life’ friends. But online identities are such a real thing for people like us who have one foot in the virtual world, and definitely something worth thinking about.

      My real name is Zenobia, though most people call me Zee 🙂

      Let me know your thoughts once you’ve had a bit of reflection.

      Like

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