blogging · discussions · not books · Shar

Disscusion: On our online personas, real life, and hurtfulness

Virtually Readers, today I’m going to talk about something I’ve been thinking about for a while. It’s kind of about Instagram, but it’s also about being Someone on the Internet and real life. I don’t know how well I managed to articulate my Thoughts, but hey, I tried, right?

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I don’t have my life together. Like, at all. But that’s not something I talk about on this blog.

I don’t talk about how I feel a low-key anxiety spinning around my stomach whenever I think about my exam grades or finishing school. I don’t talk about the bad days, where I feel like I’m never going to be good enough (at chemistry or music or whatever). Same goes for my friendship problems, or the fact that I don’t know where I want to go for university, or even if I really want to major in what I think I want to major in.

On a lower level, I don’t talk about (or photograph) my messy room (although let’s be honest, most of the mess is Shanti’s) , or how much time I spent procrastinating on the Internet or otherwise today and how much I hated myself for it, and how I hated the sound of my alarm clock this morning because I’m so tired, and how I love my cat but have to push her off when she sits on me while I work, and how my toenails, which I painted bright pink a few weeks ago, are now half grown out and chipping.

* * *

A few months ago, we had to write an English essay about a type of media. I read my classmate’s draft, which was about how Instagram, specifically lifestyle accounts, make their followers feel like they’re not good enough because their lives aren’t perfect like the person’s they see on the screen. They hold themselves up to standards nobody can reach, not even the people who run these accounts, because they obviously don’t photograph or talk about the messy, imperfect parts of their lives. (This is a generalization). It was a pretty good essay, but I didn’t have Instagram at the time, so it didn’t really capture my attention all that much.

When I did get Instagram, I soon figured out I’d like to have a theme. For the last few months, I’ve settled on a sheet music background. I’ve scrolled around and found other beautiful, themed feeds with attached captions that made me feel like I was the only one who didn’t have her life together. (side note: I really don’t think my theme is amazing or great or anything. So many other bookstagrammers do a really good job. I just try. It’s not like the number one thing I put effort into or anything. )

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Feat. my Instagram feed (A screen shot, also I can’t even with lighting ok?)

Obviously, this isn’t true. But it got me thinking about how online identities make it very easy to choose what you show about your life. It’s easier to paint it in a rosy light when most of the people who follow you don’t see the rest of your life. And as followers, it’s easy to forget all the things the person doesn’t write about—the hard things and the messy things that are just as real as the beautiful feed or tweet.

I’m not trying to say this is bad, necessarily. I personally wouldn’t really feel comfortable discussing all the hard and messy aspects of my life online. Taking beautiful pictures of books or the Easter eggs I made is easier, not quite so personal (although that’s not to say that books or thoughts about books can’t be personal).

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flower because FLOWER also I do photograph non books

I guess all I’m trying to say is that we all know our own messes better than we can ever know other people’s, especially when everybody else is creating an image—a persona—on the interwebs (I just love that word). And as a community of book nerds, I think we should all remember that a perfect feed or lovely blog post doesn’t mean we’re complete failures. Let’s appreciate what other people do share about their lives, and appreciate the messes of our own.

So if you like my Instagram feed (or someone else’s tweets or a tumblr page), that’s great. But just because that is all match-y and coordinated, don’t assume I am, and wonder how you can ever keep up. Because I’m a total mess. (A nice mess which is able to function, but a mess nevertheless). And when I read our blog posts or look at your feed, I’ll try to do the same for you.

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Do you ever have this problem? How do you decide what you’ll post online and what you won’t? What’s your favourite thing about social media vs. real life?

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18 thoughts on “Disscusion: On our online personas, real life, and hurtfulness

  1. hey Shar,’really like you bringing this up. And I think you got it spot on- on-line we are not presenting ourselves as people. We are presenting our on-line self, that amalgam of prepared coolness and time-distilled thoughts and ideas and practiced phrases that sound good but maybe we don’t actually use in real life and… Yeah like this 2-D silhouette- an image of ourselves but far from the whole thing. On-line we stay back-stage, choose exactly which way to face and where the light is and how it hits a screen and there is an audience on the other side of the screen that sees the carefully crafted shadow. Nobody else could make a shadow like it. Its an image of us, but only a bit. But like you said thats fine as long as everyone just enjoys cyberspace as a fun time in a shadow-puppet play. Fun, interesting informative… but 2-d theatre.
    Great post. Thanx.

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  2. So thoughtful post! I love it! I think we just can’t help it. In my case, for example. I’m an introvert, and like socializing from time to time. It’s good, it’s fun. But online, I feel closer to what I could be if people in rl didn’t exhaust me so much XD. I feel like my online persona (hehe) is more open and friendly, the way I am with people in rl that are friends and whom I trust enough to be relaxed.

    I’ve been attacked by those feelings of inadequacy before against how other people present themselves online. I think it’s easier to think that everyone else has it better and figured out than admitting than no one is THAT put together, because you really want to be. On one hand, it’s a relief, but on the other hand, it’s disappointing.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Pamela! I agree; it’s nice to think that even if we’re not together, someone is. But I guess it’s not true. I don’t think anyone online is trying to completely only show the good things. But it makes sense too; most of my internet profiles are public, and it’s not like I tell everybody all my issues in public. The internet is such a great place to socialise. Let’s not make it feel scary 🙂

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  3. I definitely appreciate where you’re coming from—I actually wrote an essay similar to your friend’s in eleventh grade about how ALL photos are essentially lies and we assume too much from all of them. And I think that’s why people have been so alarmed by the power of photoshop in the past: people’s perceptions have power. At the same time, I get the instinct to aim for that perfection because it is a defense mechanism. Admitting to one’s own lack of perfection and even documenting it through photos can open you up to criticism and shame. It’s very possible when cyberbullying remains a prominent feature of our digital society. So I think it’s brave of you and others who choose to admit imperfection, but I also understand why protecting your identity can take precedence in other situations, too…

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    1. I do take steps to protect my identity, so to speak, such as by not showing photos of my face, where I live, or my last name or my full name (everybody I know basically calls me Shar). Anyway, I definitely think that photos are probably one of the more damaging forms of media, because humans like images 🙂
      The examples I talked about are definitely my imperfections. But they’re not all my imperfections (of which there are many, many XD), and I suppose this is a trend I don’t plan to continue. Anyway, I guess i also have generally found this community to be safe, and I’m not worried about posting this. But your point that one reason people don’t make their online lives like their real ones is definitely a good one, and one that hadn’t occurred to me. 🙂

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  4. I actually soooo don’t get when people assume that a perfect insta feed = a perfect life. Like how can it!??😂 I think it’s perfectly fine to just show the nicer parts of your life online! Like some people are REALLY open about everything that happens, and I admire them so much. But like I’m a reserved person?!? And if I went out for like coffee with a friend, I’d wear a nice shirt and I’d smile and like…that’s just polite. So I don’t think it’s any different on the internet, tbh. I don’t think we’re lying when we just show the clean/organised parts of our life. We’re just showing part. An excellent reason not to judge someone off their insta feed, or their twitter, or their blog! (And I know this from experience because I’ve had people comment and tell me I’m lucky that “all I have to do is read and blog all day” and I’m like…?? No. Reading someone’s tweets doesn’t equal knowing everything about them!)

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    1. I really admire people who are open about their life, even the hard things, online. But that’s not really me tbh. And I definitely don’t think it’s wrong to only want to talk about certain things. I don’t think anyone has judged me based purely on my online presence, because that would be terrible 😦

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  5. Oh, what a BEAUTIFUL post! I HATE that I procrastinate on the internet too (especially! from! commenting! on! posts!). But even though I spend hours commenting on other people’s posts and hate that I can’t force myself to stop (because I feel the NEED to comment on posts and feel SUPER SUPER guilty if I don’t), I just can’t quite doing it. There are some people who have asked me how I have the time to comment, and I don’t know. I put blogging over my schoolwork, and it stresses. me. out. But people assume that I balance everything perfectly and it’s just… *sighs* ANYWAYS. About your lovely post. It’s SO true — we hide the imperfect parts of our lives; not because we want to seem perfect, but because we don’t really want to share it. It’s so important for us to recognize that we are not that perfect life, just little bits of perfect sprinkled into a lot of imperfection. Love this post! ❤

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    1. OMG I need to comment on people’s posts more! I always procrastinate and I know I’d get more likes/comments if I did but I don’t want to and procrastinating is so fun helllpppp….
      Don’t forget to do your schoolwork, May! 😄 Maybe like use commenting as a reward for yourself if you do stuff? I wrote a post about how sometimes I feel okay about reading without commenting and why some comments are annoying (but not yours! yours are great <3) here (although I don’t even remember what I wrote tbh. (also plz ignore my advice XD)

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      1. Procrastinating is boss, man. It’s just… boss-that’s-bad-but-addicting. 😄

        *hides* I procrastinated all day yesterday…

        I have no idea??? And I might just have to go and dig up that post. 😉 (lol I can’t even follow my own advice. 😄 )

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I absolutely LOVE this post, it’s just so, so accurate, every single thing you said here. I would not be comfortable sharing my anxiety and my personal issues online and I do try to be as positive and “bubbly” as I can online, it’s my escape, but really we’re all kind of messes ahah. Funny how you can paint a perfect picture of your life on social media when it’s absolutely NOT accurate to what you’re actually living. I think it’s definitely something to remember 🙂

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    1. I agree! And I think it’s totally okay not to be super personal on the internet if you don’t want to be. But it’s not okay to tell other people they should be happy about their perfect life when you don’t know the whole story. ❤ ❤
      You're amazing and bubbly online, and I'm sure you're great (but not perfect) IRL as well. ❤ ❤

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  7. LOVE. THIS. POST. It’s all so true– how we portray ourselves online is not necessarily how we actually are offline, and it’s important for everyone to recognize that about each other and ourselves. ❤

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    1. I quite agree, which is why I wrote this! It’s a lot easier to know your online life is different from your whole life than to know that other people’s lives are.

      Liked by 1 person

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