Online Identity Vs. Real Identity- A challenge for authenticity

 People are generally very selective in what they post online about themselves. Even those who seem to have little filter at all rarely post things that depict themselves in a negative light. This is despite the fact they might have a whole lot to say about everyone else and their dog. I certainly don’t look at a bad photo of myself and think, hey, I should put that on Facebook. Likewise, a friend taking a great photo usually ends in… “send me that!”, then is posted on fb for all friends to see.

Looking at Facebook specifically, people use it to create a collection of (good) memories. Not often people post about the skeletons in their own closet. People post happy moments. At this point in my life, my Facebook has gone through a few stages. I remember friends posting party pics of their “best night ever” which turned into a whole lot of pictures of engagement rings followed by wedding photos. Now, my Facebook feeds is full of birth announcements and photos of my friends children. The Social Media and Social Anxiety Link by Dr. Brankica Georgievska, MD expresses that, “Social media pages are becoming more like fairy tales rather than personal stories, where people only put the very best thing that happens at the moment.” We create an online identity that portrays ourselves in the optimal light. We create our online identity based on how we want others to see us.

It is important to recognize when viewing others profiles that their lives are likely not as perfect as they seem. They too, are carefully constructing their online self. Constantly comparing to the lives of others can be draining and affect our long-term well-being. Dr. G states, “People are afraid to ruin their image they have created for themselves, people are reserved and find it awkward to talk face to face with strangers and even friends compared to conversing online.”

“It is the mismatch between our online identity and our real life that is causing much of today’s social anxiety. Having to accept our life as it is, and not as the fairy tale shown on Facebook, is a major cause for anxiety and depression”

– Dr. Georgievska

I recently came across an article online on Common Sense Media about

Selfie Improvement apps. Teens today are feeling the pressure to look perfect online and are using applications to brighten their teeth, remove blemishes and slim themselves before posting the perfect picture of themselves…. Which is no longer hardly them at all. The media has already been creating unrealistic ideals of beauty for years but now teens are setting impossible beauty standards for themselves.

The article offers the following suggestions to parents who see their children using these apps to “perfect” themselves:

·      Talk to your kids about the validation they get from their peers and how it should never be defined solely by their looks.

·      Ask your child, “What does it feel like when you change your photos like this?” Striving to look “perfect” can weigh heavily on us. We all have imperfections, and it’s high time we embrace them.

Selfies were meant to be quick snapshots that capture fun in the moment. Too often, teens and even adults find themselves taking multiple snaps because they don’t like the way they looked. Now, some are even making use of these apps to reconstruct themselves digitally to be closer to perfect.

We learn about protecting our online identity from others but it is important to protect ourselves from our hardest critic, ourselves! In creating a true identity for ourselves online we are modeling authenticity for our children. We can help them to realize it’s ok to be who we are (unedited and app free) and that each and every one of us is beautiful in our own way.