Do You Wear a Mask?

When it comes to interacting online, there are as many opinions as there are people. You see words like “authenticity” and “transparency” tossed around, and there are discussions of privacy that deserve our attention. The fact is, we all wear masks all the time. You behave differently at home with your family than you do at work. When I was working as an office assistant, I wore makeup to work everyday and realized it was because I felt the need to hide a little in that particular environment. I’ve never had a job where I was 100% openly dava. (Except for now. As a freelancer, I’m me, through and through.)

This is one of my better masks!

This is one of my better masks!

Years ago, I started writing letters, by hand, on paper, mailed at the USPS to my parents-in-law. The idea was to communicate with them in a way I could control. They wouldn’t hear anything in the background like on the phone, and they couldn’t see my weird self like on visits. I could show them what I wanted them to see and share news they would like to hear. It totally worked, too. They went from not really liking me very much and expecting news of a divorce any day to thinking that I was a pretty good mom and we were a happy family (which was all true).

In a way, social media profiles are like my letters. People are showing you what they want you to see. There are plenty of posts and studies and articles about how Facebook makes us lonelier and Pinterest makes us less satisfied because we feel like our friends are doing better than we are, or that we can never have the kind of beautiful home or wedding or whatever that other people do. And, lots of people do only share the good stuff.

There’s this whole other group of people, though, who seem to use social media as a place to talk only about the bad stuff. People who share every little thing that goes wrong, and who ask questions like “Why can’t I ever catch a break?” or who share way too much about their family drama, or who complain about their jobs, or just whatever. Maybe it’s their way of combatting all those pictures of happy people? Who knows, but it sure is tiresome.

Then, there are some people who share nothing personal. Maybe they only share links, articles, and photos regarding one topic — writing, or music, or art, or cooking. Those people bore me in an entirely different way. I want to know what they think about those things, where they live, what their lives are like to some degree.

So, it’s a balancing act. You have to show some happy stuff, but also a little bit of bad stuff — but not too much. You need to share stuff that shows your interests and knowledge, but other stuff too. Then, bit by bit, you create an online mask that is much like your real self.

Do you consider any of this when you post on Facebook, or Twitter, or Google+, or wherever you hang out? Do you have a different mask for each platform? What are your thoughts on being authentic? Do you actively tone down parts of your personality when you are online?

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