Online vs. Offline Self

I had a lot of issues with this particular book chapter. In several places Arola states that our online selves are linked to our offline selves. For the most part this can be true, but a lot of people lie online. Your taste in music, TV shows, movies, etc. might stay the same, but people can post whatever they want to portray a certain image. Basic likes and dislikes that Facebook allows you to state just scratch the surface of who someone is. This author seems to assume that people are telling the truth about themselves offline and that transfers into the truth about who they are online. In 1996 a study was done at the University of Virginia that found on average, people lie at least two times every day. This can easily transfer to social media. It is a lot easier to lie when you don’t have to look someone in the face.

There is even a whole TV show based off of people lying to others and representing a false sense of self (Catfish). The fact that the internet is like gasoline on a lying fire is common knowledge and people tend to trust things people say less on the internet. Even if you are representing a truthful version of yourself, will anyone believe it? Do you have to post only serious things for people to believe you and take you seriously?

She talks about how an online identity is not a costume that you put on to separate yourself from the offline world. I would disagree considering many people use it that way. Or they at least provide a better version of themselves. The heavyset girl cropped her picture so only her face shows. The girl with bad acne used Photoshop to get rid of all her blemishes. The girl who occasionally goes to the gym talks like she goes every day. While these falsehoods seem insignificant they can accumulate and create a separate self (someone you wish you were). Arola might say those are insignificant pieces of regalia, but they are still pieces of data that come together to form a database of who a person is. People might choose to only express parts of who they are like the first Myspace user Adam. If only part of you is represented can you really say that your online self accurately reflects your offline one? Personally, I post different things about myself on different sites. On Instagram and Facebook I am an occasional photographer, on Twitter I am a follower who says nothing, on LinkedIn I am a professional, and on Tumblr/my blog I am a designer. I like having those separate selves across all social media, and most people only know about my Facebook. The fact that it is not all in one place makes me feel like my online identity would not accurately reflect who I am if anyone tried to figure it out just by googling me. There is also a lot that I choose to keep off the internet, just because I don’t feel the need to post everything. In this way my online self could appear very different from my offline one.

“Regalia firmly positions one within a shifting continuum of embodied identities. The act of identification continues to change…”

The one thing I would have to agree with is the fact that online identities are composed of the past and the present (Facebook Timelines) and are constantly changing. I am sure that what I post and like are very different from when I first started on Facebook. In this way you can see a change or development of self that probably reflects some sort of change within the offline one.

However, we do the same thing the content moderators do for sites like Facebook. We filter out what we want in our own news feed and what we want people to see. We untag ourselves from photos, we only post pictures we look good in, and for the most part update about the good things in our lives.

Do you think your online self accurately reflects who you are? Is it even possible?


Outside sources:


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