In the Extreme: Living with Social Split Personalities

23. August 2011 Social Media 1

Last month I was at a wedding, and saw a friend of mine I hadn’t seen since high school. Thanks to Facebook, this doesn’t mean that we haven’t “kept in touch.” On the contrary, I know just about everything going on in her life from the renovations on her house to her favorite restaurant to her latest vacation.

In between reminiscing about teenage shenanigans, she said “You’re living such an exciting life. I mean, I just love your updates on Facebook.”

For the record, I do not live what I would call an exciting life. I live in an average one bedroom apartment in a nice mid-sized city. I have cat that really should be on a diet. My day-to-day revolves around getting my work done, scrounging up something for diner, and reading good books. None of this seems terribly glamorous to me.

But my friend’s comment made me wonder: do I have a social split personality? Am I one person in real life, and another on Facebook?

After the wedding, I went online and looked at my Facebook posts. Though I didn’t see anything that jumped out as exotic (unlike a friend’s recent trip to Bali,) my social persona seemed…. well, much more excited.

Here are some of my status updates:

A gorgeous run this morning, the USWNT win, napping, Pinkberry, and a little Pirates of the Caribbean to top it all off. BEST. DAY. EVAH.

 Garlic scape pesto, where have you been all my life?

On hold and listening to the most amazing muzak cover of Hava Nagila.

Everything I posted was simply delightful. Even the mundane, like listening to hold muzak, was “amazing.” I don’t think of myself as a dour person, but I’m also not this demonically upbeat. There was something strange going on.

I spent a few days lurking on Facebook. No posts, no likes. I just wanted to see how other people where telling the story of their lives.  And sure enough, most status updates seemed to represent lives in the extreme. True, not all of them were unbridled excitement like my posts. But most of my friends were editing themselves, sharing only the most interesting parts of their day.

I believe that social technologies help amplify our humanity- the good, the bad, and the ugly. But what happens to the connections we make if we’re only sharing parts of ourselves, the exciting but not the average and mundane? Are they as meaningful? Do we miss out on real life by skipping over the bad and the ugly, and only seeing the good?

Personally, I think life is more interesting when it is messy. So now I share the untidiness of my life with my Facebook friends. This includes but is not limited to updates about going to the Laundromat, waiting in line at a consignment shop, and what I’m having for dinner.  Exciting? Not really. But it gives a patina you only find in real life.

What do you think? Do you have a social spilt personality when posting on Facebook? Or do you just let it all hang out?

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1 thought on “In the Extreme: Living with Social Split Personalities”

  • 1
    Kate on September 13, 2011

    I’m pretty honest on Facebook. No, I don’t reveal my deepest fears or secrets, but if I’m having a bad day and feel like sharing it, I do. Like when my daughter goes off to college and leaves the nest empty (again), like when I remember the friends I lost on 9/11, like when for some reason all four of my tires go flat in one day. Everything from the silly to the profound. And if I feel like counting my blessings, I do that too. Now, I do have my setting on “Friends Only,” so I’m not too worried about the general public being privy to all my moods, but I want to know what my friends are thinking and feeling (not just what they’re doing).

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