I absolutely do believe that we exist both online and offline. There are acquaintances that I have in my life that I very rarely have face-to-face interactions with, but continuously interact with them via social networks. I have found that this is very common.
Personally, I believe that hybrid identities are less accurate than our identities in the real world. This is one of the reasons why I deleted my Facebook. I wanted people to get to know the real me instead of what they were seeing on their screen. I felt as though my Facebook was not an accurate representation of myself and I did not want to be judged in that way. As Mendelson and Papacharissi put it, “In everyday life, people consciously and unconsciously work to define the way they are perceived, hoping to engender positive impressions of themselves.” Online self-representation, in my opinion, is more trouble than it’s worth. I’m not trying to meet nor impress anyone via social networking so this may come off as lazy or boring in CMC. In the online dating context, according to Ellison, Heino, and Gibbs, “Research suggests that when individuals expect to meet a potential dating partner for the first time, they will alter their self-presentation behavior in accordance with the values desired by the prospective date (Rowatt, Cunningham, & Druen, 1998).
It is extremely easy to make your Facebook profile portray a false image of yourself. This is interrelated with the idea that people can create avatars with personalities of whom they wish to be or look like in real life. According to Ellison, Heino, and Gibbs, “In certain online settings, such as online role-playing games, a schism between one’s online representation and one’s offline identity are inconsequential, even expected (p 419). Mediated contexts allow us to distort images of ourselves. Photoship and other platforms of the like are very common and easy to use. If your fat arm is showing in a picture, it is easy to crop it out or distort the image all together to make it look thinner.
I feel that our self-representation would change when we know we are going to meet these people in person. At least, that is how I would react. There are people out there who do ‘catfish’, or present themselves one way online and do not warn the other person prior to meeting them that they do not actually look like that in real life.