Are You Who You Say You Are?

I was talking to a friend recently about creative writing ideas. The one we liked best involved a romantic comedy and her search for the perfect mate.  Then she said, “Great, now I like the fictionalized version of me better than I like regular me.”  (Well, of course, because the fictionalized version never has a bad hair day, always knows what to say and meets the perfect person right on cue.)

Later I wondered – do people have an idealized version of themselves that they are trying to portray online (on Facebook, Twitter, etc.) or are they pretty much being who they are?

Apparently, I’m not the only one to ask that question. According to a study published in Psychological Science, psychologists studied 236 American and German students who participate on social networking sites. The researchers first evaluated the participants using 5 personality measures – extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness to experience. Then independent observers evaluated the participants’ social networking profiles and rated their personalities.

The end result? People generally tell the truth online, and how they are online is pretty much how they actually are in life.

I’d like to see a follow-up study – since one of the core tenets of social media is authenticity, it would be interesting to know if those who project online presences most like themselves are more successful online in making connections, gaining followers, having people click on their links. I would think so, but it would be nice to see a study backs that up.

When you create your online profiles do you think about how it’s perceived by others or do you just tell the truth (or not)?  What about what you choose to share? I know some people don’t “check in” with FourSquare or Facebook Places at mundane places like grocery stores and gas stations because they only want to be seen checking in at fun or interesting venues like restaurants and clubs (while others check in everywhere to earn more mayorships).  Are you selective about what you share to present yourself a particular way?

Lisa Crotty

Marketing Manager

Lisa is a Senior Optimization Specialist at Innate – her friends even teased that she A/B tested her name change. Lisa studied Philosophy of Science & Technology at Virginia Tech and is always asking why.

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