Online identities oversimplify living

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Society’s fascination with social media is at an all-time high. Having become the be-all and end-all for determining social standing, social media continues to contribute to the fragmentation of the personalities of highly “e-vested” individuals.

The avenue of Twitter, especially, affords individuals the opportunity to create an “avatar”; a heavily edited, assumedly idealized version of themselves. The extensive practice of social media has essentially allowed for the creation of an alternate reality.

The phenomenon is this: real and virtual lives have little in common. A virtual friendship in no way concedes a real-life friendship. Extensive communication and rapport through Facebook and Twitter may translate in only a nod, or a brisk hello when encountering one another in the real world.

In fact, it is not unusual for one to be privy to as many intimate details of the lives of a Twitter following or Facebook friend as you could learn in face-to-face conversations — even if the friendship spanned for several years. This is because, from the safety of our bedrooms, inhibitions are considerably lessened.

Further, if you can be clever, witty and likeable online, it’s no longer a necessity to have the social finesse to present yourself this way in person. E-charm is enough and, in a noticeable cultural shift, many have decided to use social media as their primary means of socializing.

We extensively document daily activities, ask others to share their own and attempt to engage in meaningful and lengthy conversations — all in 140 characters or less.

Suddenly, the socially awkward have become socially active; successfully fooling peers into perceiving them differently. Online, there is the potential to become braver, bolder, more clever and attractive.

What does this say about the relationships we form? How much do we really know about one another in the digital age? How close can we truly be? Wrought is my life with instances in which I first encounter an individual whose digital personality I am familiar with – only to be astounded by the glaring inconsistencies.

Your close-lipped smile is a result of braces? That flawless skin is really the product of Photoshop proficiency? I feel sudden pity for online daters.

We heavily edit photos, carefully select information to project to the world: spend countless hours strategically selecting comments, likes, RTs and posts in order to project a carefully constructed virtual image to the Twitter-verse and Facebook world.

This virtual image may have little to do with who we really are, because we get to choose it. Making “friends” is now as simple as a click of a mouse — which promises to accelerate this frightening phenomenon.

The more interesting thing is, these social media avatars we have created for ourselves seem to carry almost as much weight in determining our social standing as our real-life selves. Popularity on the Internet truly translates into real-life popularity. Raising the question: which is more real and, ultimately, important?

We use Twitter to market ourselves; get jobs, promote our personal work and more. It is an avenue with which we can accomplish what physical and time related constraints may otherwise have prevented. We can connect with friends and relatives scattered across the far reaches of the globe.

Undoubtedly, mediums like Twitter are useful, for both socializing and professional networking. The growing problem is that mediums such as Facebook and Twitter are replacing real social interactions; creating a generation of individuals who interact from behind computer screens and undermine the value of human interaction.

My proposed solution? Utilize social media in the way it was intended, rather than replacing real relationships with cyber ones. Take the time to connect, face-to-face, before we all forget how.


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Serving the Waterloo campus, The Cord seeks to provide students with relevant, up to date stories. We’re always interested in having more volunteer writers, photographers and graphic designers.