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Online vs. Offline Self: Who is the Real You?

08 Dec

Online vs. Offline Self: Who is the Real You?

Posted By: 
Kaitlyn Guay

“Our generation is stuck in this unique position of trying to create ourselves. As if growing up and making sense of the world wasn’t enough, we have this second space where we are forging our identities, one where no generation before us has set the rules.”

You scroll through your Facebook news feed, taking in all the smiling faces, the gorgeous pictures of far-away travels, the food you’d like to steal through the screen, and yes, it must be said, the myriad of selfie-induced duck lips. As you scroll, you suddenly feel the grungy stickiness of inadequacy adhering to your skin. You have no photos to share, no new place to go, your dinner is a cheese sandwich, and your duck-lip looks more like a sea mollusk.

Today, we have the opportunity to be more connected with the world than we ever have before. This is a beautiful thing, and an invitation to practice authenticity and mindfulness. Unfortunately, what we are not always aware of is that the portrait of humanity seen through selfies and screenshots is not real life. It is a curation. This phenomenon of curating two dueling personas is what philosophers call: The Divided Self. In this thought-provoking video by @SoulPancake, they discuss the challenges in foraging online vs. offline identities.

“While we can share more of ourselves online than ever previously possible, we choose not to. Instead, we curate.”

Much like an upscale art gallery, we choose what pictures to post, what moments to snap, what statuses to share. We edit and filter, and why not? In a world where we’re struggling to make our place, we want to-- to borrow an old adage-- put our best foot forward. There’s nothing wrong with this. So long as we are aware that what most people propagate online is merely a highlight reel. It has been rigged to appear perfect. As such, it should not be used as a measuring stick when comparing ourselves to others.

Many young people today find themselves creating two completely different personas: one for online, one for off. This Division of Self splits the mind, creating a state of uneasiness, one where we never quite feel grounded in our own person. The more we see the carefully curated reel, the more we begin to believe that that is how our life should be. It’s similar to hearing the success stories of your heroes without seeing the years of toil and failures it took to get there: we only see the instant success, and therefore, begin to believe that we, as mere mortals, could never achieve such greatness. (When, in fact, there is magic hidden within all of us.)

So how can we avoid this Division of Self? While some may choose to delete all social media apps from their phone, this is unrealistic for most of us. After all, we like connecting with people all around the world. It’s amazing! The universe is online, and there is incredible beauty to be found at the click of a button. The solution is simple, although harder to achieve: much like Artificial Intelligence in every Sci-Fi movie ever, you must simply become aware. (Cue the Twilight Zone theme song.)

Heed the call to live an authentic life and embrace your inherent awesomeness. It is authenticity that most attracts us to others: when we see someone’s true self, we connect to them in a way that is deeper than superficial admiration.

“We should be authentic online, but know that behind the highlight reel, we’re all beautifully imperfect.”

Let’s embrace it.