How genuine are you online?

Mental Health @ Home - How genuine are you online? - woman wearing an eye mask

I got the idea for this post from a recent post by Kacha at Food.for.thoughts about social media and depression, and I think it’s a relevant question for anyone who shares parts of themselves on the internet – how genuine are you online?

In-person communication typically involves three levels: verbal, paraverbal (tone of voice and other variables not related to the words themselves), and nonverbal.  With online written communication, there’s only the equivalent of the verbal component.  That means we lose important sources of information in evaluating the meaning of what someone is saying and how genuine they are.

It also means that there are aspects of the individual that simply cannot be conveyed through online communication.

I’m generally pretty open on my blog, but I’m selective about timing.  I’m far more likely to talk about a problem after it’s happened than while it’s happening.  Part of that is wanting to keep some things private, and partly it’s because I get the most benefit from writing about things post-mortem, as I’m able to reflect on the issue in a more thoughtful way.

That factored into my choice not to do a diary-style blog.  Plus there’s really not a lot going on in my life on a day to day basis, so I really wouldn’t have much to say.

While I’ll sometimes blog about insecurities, mostly I choose not to write about minor day-to-day securities that come up.  I feel like giving them a platform lends them greater mental importance than they’re worth.  There are also some things I don’t share because I just don’t think it would be useful for me or for anyone else.

In many ways, I’m able to be more genuine through blogging than I can be in person.  I have a hard time with in-person communication, which in turn makes it difficult to let the real me shine through.  Online, my slowed thinking is much less of a problem, because I can take the time to pull my thoughts together, where I really wouldn’t have that in face-to-face communication.  That means that my online persona is a much more effective communicator than I am “in real life”, so in a way that online persona is not true to my in-person level of functioning.

I find that when interacting online I’m able to access parts of my core self that seldom make an appearance in real life.  For example, my sense of humour is a part of me that doesn’t really show up offline.

Overall, though, I think we’re all selective to some degree about how much of ourselves we expose online, and there are things that can be picked up in person that are missing from online interaction.

How genuine are you online?  Is there a lot that you hold back?

 

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71 thoughts on “How genuine are you online?

  1. Luftmentsch says:

    I feel I am very genuine online. Much more so than in real life. I’m more willing to talk about big things like my mental health or small things like Doctor Who. I do mostly avoid discussing politics (especially Israel/Zionism) and religious theology (as opposed to the social aspects of living in the Jewish community) because those can be really explosive, although I don’t really talk about them in the real world much either for the same reasons.

    I also like being able to put my thoughts together in writing and being able to edit. I have autistic difficulties with body language anyway, so it’s not like I’m missing much by writing.

  2. Johnzelle Anderson says:

    Since I began writing, I learned that I express myself most completely in written form. People often don’t take the time to really listen to each other, so deep conversations in real life are sparse (unfortunately). As far as being genuine, I think I’m pretty honest online. I’ve noticed that who I am changes (opinions, goals, dreams) and writing gives me the ability to recognize the context of past decisions. Definitely a great tool in self awareness. Great post!

  3. BeckiesMentalMess.wordpress.com says:

    Honestly, I am more personable and genuine online (BLOG), than I am in person. When I write, I am literally opening up my soul and my thoughts.
    In person, even though I’m the same way in a sense, I will hold back more.
    There is probably only one topic I don’t cover on my blog more and that’s because I agreed that I wouldn’t. That topic is my immediate family.
    Although we don’t talk, I still hear what’s going on in their lives. I refrain from even touching on the subject of them. Heck, they really don’t exist in my world anyway.

  4. Meg says:

    Fun post and topic! I’m beyond genuine, and I know what you mean about how it can be hard to “read” someone with verbal cues alone. If only WP would allow videos, then we could blog short videos of ourselves talking to our audiences! I, too, have been trying not to blog boring details lately, unless there’s a point. I love to capture my life diary-format, because with me, there’s always something going on, oh my goodness! My unpredictable life was made for diary-format, ya know? Blogging helps me be outspoken, but not about opinions. More like, “It’s okay to be who I am, so it’s okay for you to be you. Because this is Meg!” I’ve found ways around being ashamed of who I am, almost like really good group therapy. I guess that’s the point, for people to think, yes, she’s weird, but she’s comfortable being authentic. And I’m also able to tell when I’m being judgey and to question that, and to work through basic day-to-day issues. Then I also feel, if I’m having a really bad moment, that I’m supported, which is great; and I’m happy to be there for fellow bloggers in much the same ways!

  5. Hilary Tan says:

    Similarly, I feel like my writing is better than what I say in person. I need time to write, reflect, write some more, edit, edit some more etc. In the end, my goal is to be able to be proud of what I’m releasing into the universe, whereas in person, I feel rushed trying to find the right words to say or express myself. I’ve got some mild Aspergers which wasn’t fully diagnosed, but suspected by many. Apparently, I’m an indigo child.

    The people in my immediate life don’t really get the whole blogging thing, and that’s okay. If I were to write similar things on Facebook where most of my immediate/extended family resides, I would be judged. But here, I feel safe. I feel sake to fully express how I feel.

    That picture of the girl with the mask is very accurate and I immediately thought of the various personas we use online and offline. I’m a lot more outgoing online than in person. Also, I met another blogger who was very introverted in person despite being extremely extroverted online. I don’t think this is a coincidence, rather, writing allows us to bring out our true personalities. Offline, I feel like we are forced to suppress our feelings to an extent.

    • ashleyleia says:

      I agree, offline there’s pressure to keep emotional expression in check.

      I’ve also found that it’s easier to be open about things here on WordPress than it would be on social media. For the most part, it’s a very safe space here.

      • Hilary Tan says:

        I’ve mostly given up on other social media platforms due to lack of free expression. If I’m going to be criticized for writing a status update (yes, its ridiculous), then I’ll move to another platform. Family members know that my blog exists, and the more my blog continues to evolve, the more they back off.

        WordPress allows me to be free, and I agree that it a very safe space. Sure, there’s the occasional rude person or troll, but its rare to encounter people like this on WP. Overall, WP has been a positive experience for me. 😀

  6. Paula Light says:

    Somewhat genuine. I don’t write about work at all, even though I have 2 jobs, so obviously work is a huge part of my day. I used to write a tiny bit about work but then I decided not to unless it was about the elevator or cafeteria. Nothing about work-work. People reading me might get the impression I don’t work at all, especially because I write most posts early and late and then schedule them to publish in the middle of the day for more views. I also avoid posting much about family and friends because I don’t want to step on any toes. That leaves old dating stories, which may give the impression I’m obsessed with past romances when in fact much of the time I’m thinking about family and friends! But my humor and style is real at least 🙂

  7. Michael A. Kuch says:

    Great post … I flex between 100% genuine when writing about my childhood, memories and some things I try do to help with social awareness. While on lighter matters, I tend to goof and be tongue-in-cheek, not entirely genuine.

  8. kachaiweb says:

    I’m so glad I inspired you to pose this fun question. Thank you for the mention!

    Now as for my answer. Writing helps to connect with my weird self. I feel that the community is very accepting and very open. It’s easier to be me than in real life becasue of the acceptance and because I have the time to reflect about things.

    I started my blog with the intention to – maybe for the fist time – be who I am. My imposter comes along while writing, he or she whispers into my ear that my posts are just ridiculous and plain stupid. He or she says I need to do more research about topics. But I publish anyway because I ‘feel’ what I write. And I send the imposter on a long holiday. This to me is new but I enjoy it very much.

    I agree that writing post-mortem is a better idea but I sometimes write while in the turmoil because I feel that that is my life now. Is it a good or bad idea? I don’t know yet.

    As for style, I’m finding my voice and I play with different things and that helps me to ‘see’ where I am now and what I’ve lived through already. I remember when not feeling anything,
    I just looked at what I’ve written so far and this helpt me a lot. It kept me grounded in a way.

    So yes, I think it is ‘me’ that you’re reading in my posts. Except I have really stupid and silly humor and I think that doesn’t come across correct in every situation, oops! 😁

    • ashleyleia says:

      I’m glad you’re able to send the imposter far away where it belongs. If it feels right, publish. If it doesn’t feel right, go ahead and publish it anyway!

      And there’s nothing wrong with stupid and silly. If we can’t laugh at things that takes the sparkle out of life.

  9. lorrs33 says:

    I’m genuine to an extent. Like you I do try to keep some things private. Sometimes I’m afraid to be too genuine because I’m convinced I’ll depress people if I’m too honest about my mental health. It’s not always easy to find the balance.

  10. LovingSummer says:

    “In many ways, I’m able to be more genuine through blogging than I can be in person. I have a hard time with in-person communication, which in turn makes it difficult to let the real me shine through.”

    This.

    100%.

    I think that’s partly why I want to text my therapist at least once between sessions, not only do I think more clearly but I manage to get across what I really want to say much better.

    I used to write to my grandparents and they loved it, but I always thought they must be confused when I finally come to visit and am a mousey, quiet, shy kid that can barely say boo to a goose!

    I feel the real me, the persons inside me, comes out when I write but often doesn’t when I speak in real time. Not unless I am in charge at work, or the life and soul of a party and everyone is drunk enough to think I’m funny 😁
    But again, when the party is over, I go back to me, with the accidentally sulky resting face. Sigh.

  11. Melanie B Cee says:

    Taking into account two things: a) my mild paranoia and b) my irrational fear of ID thieves and being hacked (which dovetail with the paranoia); I’m extremely genuine on line. Probably more so than I am face to face. Anonymity here (blogging) provides a certain freedom for being candid about things one might never say if one were actually speaking straight to a person. And my inherent introverted nature isn’t as much of a problem ‘on line’. I do not and will never share personal, intimate details about myself due to the first thing I wrote up there. To me being that ‘genuine’ is foolish. But otherwise, what you see is what you’ll get if you’re blogging with me. So I think I’m pretty darned genuine.

  12. lisa says:

    I am very honest and genuine online. I am very upfront about everything. I find living with honesty is the only way I can live.I no longer base my life on secrets.

  13. simplywendi says:

    That is a wonderful question! I am the same person online as I am in person, but I hold back a lot of the nitty gritty of my life with chronic illness. Most people don’t want to read the sad depressing truth of it but the encouraging and light hearted words. Thank you for this thought provoking question…..

  14. crushedcaramel says:

    When I am expecting guests at my home, I normally rush round and have a tidy up and check things look presentable. Although I am happy that I clean my home regularly and I like the way it is decorated etc, I still like it to look neat and tidy for guests.

    I think I am the same with presenting myself online. I like me. I am happy with the whole package, but for strangers, I perhaps try to convey information about myself in a way that shows I do care what they think.

    I don’t know if that makes sense, but I wouldn’t want others to see the worst of me, before I have had have a tidy up.

  15. M.B. Henry says:

    This is a very interesting topic to explore – since social media can definitely be a double-edged sword. While it allows some to be more honest and open than they could be in person, which is awesome, others fall into the trap of comparing themselves to people on social media – likes, friend counts, followers, etc – and it can make them feel inferior. Especially since a lot of people aren’t posting the whole picture, it can be a sad cycle. A very interesting take you have on the subject. I would say I focus mostly on the history and my thoughts therein, and I leave my personal life out of my online presence. I find it hard to be that vulnerable to an online audience. In fact, this comment is a lot more personal than I usually get! 🙂

    • ashleyleia says:

      I agree, a lot of people are very selective about what they post on social media, and it creates a sort of fake perfect life image. I find there’s less of that on WordPress. Instagram is really bad that way. Having a subject focus seems like a good way to minimize at least some of that.

  16. Michelle says:

    I am selective both in person and online. I have a difficult time talking to people about my relationship to family and people at work and online. For me, it is better kept private because it’s something for myself only. I do have hard time knowing what to say to people to have a conversation with them. When there is a moment for me to talk, my mind goes blank and I have nothing to say.

    This is why blogging is great for me because I can think before I have something to share with people too. I am the same way with waiting to share things about my life on my blog but for a different reason. I just have a hard time writing about things right away because I am still dealing with the stress of it.

  17. NooseGirl says:

    I am genuine to a fault, I think. But it’s totally purposeful.

    My blog is all about what it feels like to live with mental illness . . particularly with psychosis. That’s part of the reason I use a pseudo-name. I know that connecting my real identity with some of my stories can affect future employment, housing opportunities, and loss of friends or support network.

    Many times, it takes a lot of courage mustering to click that Post button. And I know it will in the future. I have several posts in draft form, many of which involve me in such stress and madness, that I act out violently.

    But I’m doing this because I think it’s important. I’m doing it so others that have experienced it do not feel alone. And I’m doing it to help those supporting someone suffering from mental illness may be better able to understand what is going on in the mind’s of their loved ones.

    My intent is to reveal my true identity in a full length book about my story someday. But for now, I’m fortifying my courage by blogging as honestly as I possibly can.

  18. da-AL says:

    Great subject. I don’t tell everything about my life, don’t want to bore people, but what I do tell is honest. Most of all, I don’t talk much about other people as I don’t want to hurt others. Even if I’m angry at someone or don’t like them, it still seems unfair & I would hate if they ever saw…

  19. eirlysgwenllian says:

    I am waaay more genuine, communicative and expressive online than offline, because like you and many of the other commenters, I also find writing the easiest way of communication for me. I’m introverted and have social anxiety as part of AVPD, plus I have a very strong tendency to suppress my emotions, and am blind on top of that which doesn’t help with nonverbal expression as well as understanding nonverbal cues of other people, so that definitely is a mix that doesn’t help you with interactions with other people. I feel like there are aspects of my personality that pretty much don’t come out offline or very rarely, that I can express on my blog or writing to people. It’s also much easier for me to connect with people online on a deeper level, make closer or at least more genuine relationships with people, be more engaging and actually maintain them, though I suppose another factor in this is that it’s harder for me to find people in my surroundings that I connect to also because I’m simply weird so I won’t click with everyone and anyone, and they won’t necessarily click with me either. There are lots of things that I talk about on my blog or with people I know online more or less freely but hardly ever or not at all with people offline. There are much fewer things that are the other way round. But like you, I’ll rather write about some bigger problem after it’s happened, I’m more likely to write about it extensively in my offline diary first, I don’t like throwing things on my blog that I haven’t processed in my brain if they are sensitive for some reason. But overall I find online world definitely easier to navigate in terms of communication.

  20. Ami says:

    I’m definitely more genuine online than I am in-person. On social media, I feel like I belong and I can be myself, but in-person, I’m surrounded by a lot of negativity. I’m trying to work towards becoming the person I am online, in-person, which I’m slowly getting there

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