Maintaining both an online and offline personality is an interesting and unique responsibility the people in my generation have. Or at least, it was unique. Now, it’s quite common with everyone and their mothers on Facebook. Nevertheless, the hybrid personalities we adopt can help us better understand and present ourselves, and others.
Of course the balance and treatment of the hybrid identity will vary from person to person. Someone can paint himself to be a certain way online, and in person, he may be completely different. Online profiles allow us to list our likes and dislikes and follow celebrities and sports teams we’re fans of. We end up giving anyone who stumbles across our page access to a bunch of personal information that’s true to our offline personalities. On Facebook, it’s in a convenient list. Workplace to school, to favorite books, movies and television shows—everything is broken down into a [Your Name Here] 101.
What’s funny to me is, to share that information was a voluntary move…but it’s still creepy if someone you know only casually in person (but you’re friends with him on Facebook) brings up your favorite things in a conversation. Really…should it be creepy? It was your idea to share all that info and accept the friend request! If that person found out those things about you in a face-to-face conversation, it would be totally normal small talk.
I’m not a fan of Facebook, and I feel it’s just too much information. Profiles seem to be crafted to such perfection that it seems a little fake to me, not to mention quite focused on the self (in a “look at me! I’m important and do fun/cool things with my awesome friends and here are all the pictures to prove it!” kind of way that Mendelson and Papacharissi mention in their chapter about college kids on Facebook, “Look At Us”). I’m an avid Twitter user though, so I’m sure the Facebook fan would say something similarly critical about me.
I feel the hybrid identity can be more accurate, but in an indirect way. The method in which a person crafts his online identity and uses his online profiles says a lot about him, and this can be more revelatory about a person’s identity that the simple likes and dislikes listed on the side of a page.