When we go online, whether it’s on social media, games, or discussion threads, do we fully represent who we are in the real world or do we alter our image to become more acceptable by those around us? It seems as a whole that people online try to emphasize only their personal traits that they feel will be the most favorably looked on. For example, someone who’s on a dating site is going to demonstrate how they are loyal, fun, intelligent, and attractive meanwhile on a debate over a controversial topic online someone is going to try and prove that their moral compass is straight and that they are making the most informed and logical points. “I really analyzed the way I was going to present myself. I’m not one of these [people who write] all cutesy type things, but I wanted to be cute enough, smart enough, funny enough, and not sexual at all, because I didn’t want to invite someone who thought I was going to go to bed with them [as soon as] I shook their hand. (PaliToWW, Los Angeles Female) 2” (Ellison, Heino, Gibbs, 2006) In this example, this woman tried to present herself in the best light while on an online dating site. She even states that she is not one to normally write “cutesy” things and yet she made an effort to come across as cute in order to attract people. She’s not necessarily lying about who she is but instead making sure to draw attention to her more favorable traits. You’ll never see a real online dating account of someone saying they are possessive, dramatic, and a cheater. Those are things that people try to avoid in relationships and therefore no one would want to draw attention to the fact that they may possess those traits. “In every day life, people consciously and unconsciously work to define the way they are perceived, hoping to engender positive impressions of themselves. This effort entails emphasizing certain characteristics, through dress, hairstyle, behavior, and/or speech, while hiding or diminishing other characteristics perceived as flawed, depending on context.” (Papacharissi, 2011) Just as was stated, people on a daily basis are always making decisions in how to portray themselves to those around them. Almost everyone in this world is looking for acceptance, love, and approval and in order attain that many people feel the need to alter how the online community views them.
A really good example of this is on Facebook. When my friends and I first all signed up for Facebook we didn’t care what was on our profiles. There were many pictures that didn’t show us in the best light and silly links to the most random things. No one censored what they wrote on each others walls and that didn’t change much once we started college. Then came in the influx of red solo cup pictures that almost always happened to be in a dark basement somewhere. As we got closer to our junior year though many of us myself included started to changing our profiles. Some people deleted old pictures and drowned their feed with scholarly articles and more intelligent and business oriented posts. Other people I know changed the name on their profile to a nickname and made it super private, essentially making only friends able to access it while simultaneously making a new profile with their full legal name, reasonably public and controlled everything that was posted. This was all so that when companies that we were applying to search for us on social media they only found what we wanted them to find. I followed the first route and tailored my account to more accurately show who I am while not denying the fact that I do have fun with my friends outside of the business world (although not the solo cup kind of fun, that’s still hidden). I’ve noticed as companies have started having a bigger presence on social media that more and more people are faced with having to alter their online presence and identity in order to come across as more appealing in order to be hired. It seems that this is what our world and society has come to…that in many places online it’s hard to be able to really show your full personality.