Back in the day if a person had more than one identity, they were probably straight jacketed and thrown in a padded room. Nowadays a person with one identity would be in the minority. Although profiles are almost fully customizable, the online population seems to lack consistency regarding their offline selves. Ideally, with such a magnitude of customizable features, a person could build their profile as an exact replica of their self, but the unwritten rules of self-presentation lead to other results.
“Some theorists argue that CMC gives participants more freedom to explore playful, fantastical online personae that differ from their ‘‘real life’’ identities” (Ellison, Heino, and Gibbs, pg.419). This fact completely changes our perceptions about people based on their online identities. Because people are constantly altering their identities, viewers of these online profiles have to alter their perceptions of individuals. Instead of taking online information at face value, we take it with a grain of salt instead. This means that we naturally consider the online truth as tainted. We also know that these changes are in no way random, but instead formulated based on desired audience. According to Papacharissi, “This effort entails emphasizing certain characteristics…while hiding or diminishing other characteristics” (Papacharissi, pg.252). People are constantly changing their perceived characteristics in order to give off an exact perception. So when that wild partying college graduate decides its time to get a job, his profile will most likely reflect the professional highlights of his life, whereas in college his profile was made to exemplify fun and games.
This is why hybrid identities are less accurate then real identitiies. Even when dealing with photography, “People give a ‘performance’ when they allow themselves to be photographed” (Papacharissi, pg. 255). Some might argue that all people whether in person or online, lie or stretch the truth regarding their true selves. This is true, but the reason hybrid identities are less accurate is due to time. Imagine an actor is thrown in front of an audience to do a one man show without any rehearsal, although he is acting, his lack of preparation will cause true characteristics to expel from his being. In the same sense, if that actor had time to rehearse, they’re performance would be impeccable and you would no longer be able to tell what was real and what was fake. This rehearsal draws parallels to online profiles where a person has an unlimited amount of time to create a desired imagine, while in person, they must react and think on their feet.
This ability to “rehearse” online also leads to people creating a version of their ideal self. “Many people describe themselves the way they want [to be] . . . their ideal themselves” (Ellison, Heino, and Gibbs, pg. 426). This is actually a technique that can help individuals. If a person creates an online identity based on the person they want to be, they are more likely to try to act consistently with that profile in fear of being exposed. Over long enough time, they may completely take on this persona and become the best version of themselves; or at the least, the person they truly want to be.