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?
Layers of communication
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 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 not a lot going on in my day to day life, so I 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. And some things I don’t share because I just don’t think it would be useful for me or for anyone else.
Where is it easier to be genuine?
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.
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?
You can find more posts about identity on the blog index.