Sometimes, we don’t even think about how our activities and habits impact us. Some activities become an integral part of our everyday lives so we may not even notice how much time we dedicate to them and how powerfully they start to impact us.
For instance, many of us spend a lot of time online. For some people, their online presence is just an opportunity to stay in touch with friends, while others may develop social media addiction and to try online therapy to deal with emotional problems caused by the difference between their online and offline personalities.
As many of us spend hours online every day, for many people, online presence becomes part of their personality. However, it hasn’t always been like that.
Online Self vs. Offline Self
When the internet was young, a huge share of online communication was anonymous. The internet allowed you to be, or pretend to be, whoever you wanted. However, as online communication became more and more important for us, we eventually decided to trade anonymity for a more accurate reflection of our real identities.
On social media, we started to share all details of our lives with not only friends but also many people we’ve never seen in real life. We spend so much time online that it becomes impossible not to take our online presence seriously.
According to statistics, Americans spend on average 24 hours a week online, and 30% of this time we spend on social media. People are social creatures so we want to be accepted and seek attention. We want people to like us so we try to make a good impression.
When we want to make a nice impression in real life, it usually happens during short-term interactions. For instance, you may want to highlight the best aspects of your personality on a first date or job interview. These are short-term interactions. The task becomes increasingly difficult as we share a large portion of our lives with others, all the time.
A Digital Extension of Ourselves
Everything we do online: our web searches, communications on social media, and browser history, reflect our personality. Although such things may not provide a complete picture of someone’s identity, values, and abilities, our data can tell a lot about us, and that’s why it’s so valuable.
What is “real” identity? The truth is that it’s a very complex thing, and it expands beyond our actions, words, and thoughts. Even before the digital age, psychologists referred to our material possessions as our extended self.
Material things that we own can communicate many signals, and we can decode these signals and build a personality profile by interacting with another person. In the age of social media, our tweets, photos, videos, and other content work in a similar way, serving as digital artifacts that complement us.
Researchers have also proven that people’s social media activity can tell a lot about their personalities. For instance, a study that focused on website choices and online behavior demonstrated that likes on social media show how intellectual, extroverted, and careful we are.
Analysis of tweets also enabled researchers to evaluate users’ emotional stability and extraversion. Depending on your personality, you’re more or less likely to use certain words. Linguistic analysis of tweets even allowed researchers to evaluate how narcissistic, psychopathic, or machiavellian users are.
Research data also shows that our online purchases and media choices reflect our personality, as well. Therefore, computer algorithms can not only predict what videos or music you might like but also help explain why you might like such content.
The Impact of Social Media on Behavior
One of the most important mechanisms that connect the use of social media and behavior is comparison orientation. In psychology, comparison orientation refers to a person’s need to compare themselves to others. Research data shows that frequent use of social media is linked to a higher probability of a comparison.
People look up to those who appear more successful or happy, and social comparisons play an important role in our lives. For instance, engaging in social comparisons influences the way we manage our emotions.
It’s important to mention that upward social comparisons can positively impact one’s behavior by being a source of motivation. At the same time, when scrolling posts of successful influencers and celebrities, it’s easy to forget about the negative effects of upward social comparisons.
Social media fuels anxiety and creates fear of missing out (FOMO). Research data shows that constant comparison can seriously damage your self-esteem. The more comparisons people make on social media, the more negative emotions they feel.
People experience fear of missing out because they compare their everyday lives to well-curated content, unrealistic beauty standards, and stories of success. On social media, we only see the best parts of someone’s life so it may seem like someone else is living a perfect life where every day is filled with exciting experiences.
The gap that separates digital self and real self can negatively affect not only a person who realizes that their offline life is different from the perfect picture on social media but also those who consume their content. For instance, researchers link FOMO to increased stress, loneliness, and envy.
Digital Self vs. Real Self: How to Sync Your Identities
So, what is an online persona? To be honest, the answer depends on you because only you choose what you post, like, or share online. We’ve already mentioned that social acceptance is very important for many people. We may want to share the best things about our personalities, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
However, there is a difference between broadcasting what you consider to be good and trying to meet other people’s expectations. Influencers get paid for what they do, and you should be able to take highly curated social media content with a grain of salt.
If you want to avoid the negative influence of social media, don’t try to keep up with the latest trends, and stay authentic. If you realize that there is a gap between your online and offline personalities, the best solution is to distance yourself from social media for a while and think of what you actually like and enjoy.
You can sync your online and offline personalities by practicing mindfulness, embracing unique features of your personality, and becoming more self-aware. Practice self-care and learn to love yourself the way you are, no matter how different your life is from that of social media influencers. Last but not least, dedicate more time to face-to-face communication so that you won’t put too much value on your online presence.
Syncing your offline and online personalities can be a difficult task because it requires you to learn to love yourself for who you really are instead of constantly comparing yourself to others. Not only can social media be dangerous for your self-esteem, but it can also be addictive, so it can be very difficult to stop scrolling your feed all day long and focus on your well-being instead.
The good news is that psychologists are perfectly familiar with the problems caused by social media, so don’t hesitate to seek professional help. For instance, you can use online therapy platforms like Calmerry to talk to a licensed therapist from the comfort of your home.
A therapist can help you better understand your real self and improve your self-esteem. If you’ve never talked to a therapist before and don’t know what to expect from your first session, you can learn more about talk therapy and its benefits.