“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”
-Oscar Wilde, writer and poet
For the most part, you control how people will perceive you when you meet them face to face. In the online world, you may have less control in that than you’d think.
Your digital identity is a bit of a mystery. Jason Millar explains how facebook has algorithms in place that allow certain posts made by you to appear in the news feeds of your friends, and not others. Like Amy, I wasn’t aware of this until quite recently. Which posts make it to the news feed? Well that can depend on what facebook wants the algorithms to select at that particular time. These algorithms are a secret, but were a major news story recently when facebook conducted what many would consider to be an unethical experiment to essentially see if people exposed to more positive posts would post more themselves and if negative posts would result in less posting.
This external filtering can alter how we want to project ourselves in the digital realm, but many of us (or all) project an altered view of our true identiy without the aid of algorithms. Do you all post both your proudest moments and your worst? I think a lot of us perceive everybody else as having a superior life because most people filter their identity and only their best makes it online. Not only do they take their best moments, but then they might even filter and photoshop to make a great moment seem even greater or be more stunning. This can be depressing. If I look at one of my friends profiles and look at their photo albums, I might see album titles like ‘Hawaii’, ‘Mardi Gras’ , and ‘Stanley Cup 2014’ and think about how my life experiences pale in comparison. What I’m not necessarily seeing is the stuff inbetween which is more than likely far less glamorous.
I don’t think of my life as being something filled with extravagant experiences, and I don’t post much online either. Yet when I think about what others would see if they looked at my digital identity they would see things such as me competing at the 2010 Canadian Mixed Curling Championship in Burlington Ontario and me being on the field at Rogers Center with a couple of Blue Jays players. That’s not really indicative of how I spend most of my time.
And so we have this issue of being someone different online than who we really are.
This can go as so far as depressing us into thinking that we’re not as good as other people or our lives don’t measure up, and can be so depressing to some that it results in individuals taking their lives as evidenced by the sad story of Madison Holleran.
So where do we go from here? Well, I think it’s awfully hard to be truly authentic when creating our digital identities as we have time to process what we say and do whereas in real life, we don’t have that ‘think time’ necessarily to shape who we are. In some cases, as Kirsten points out, parents are already shaping their childs digital identity before that individual even has any idea what digital means. And so I think our focus shouldn’t be on being more authentic online, but on building our confidence in who we are and being happy with ourselves. Ashley noted in her blog that a lot of us, but particularly kids, need help with figuring out what to do when we’re not plugged in. I think that if we struggle with finding joy and satisfaction without being in the digital realm, then we are susceptible to allowing what we see in the digital realm to really shape our feelings. We need to find our passions. When we have those things in our life that feed our soul, and keep us motivated and feeling good, then I think that just boosts our confidence and feelings of self-worth. We might also then seek out those communities online of like minded individuals and the online world becomes an even more positive place for us. There are many factors working against us online, like algorithms tweaking our identities and how we see others and the natural filtering most of us do. These things are out of our control. But if we can find those things that make us feel good, and we can be proud of who we are, then maybe those skewed digital identities won’t be such a problem.
We need to OWN who we are.
Live long and prosper