What We Look Like On The Internet Isn’t The Whole Story

writers of the month

It has been almost a decade since I was introduced to Xanga, and MySpace soon after. I taught myself to write HTML code to customize my blog design, my bios, my top 8. My parents bought me some sweet photo-editing software (~*~*Microsoft Digital Image Starter Edition 2006!*~*~) and an awesome digital camera (~*~*four megapixels*~*~) so I could make sure I had the coolest MySpace photos around. I was 15 years old and carefully crafting what I looked like on the Internet. I was melodramatic, self-absorbed and totally, totally awesome.

about me
My MySpace bio circa 2005 (custom-made and inserted as a .jpg so it would look ~perfect~.

I complain about it now, about how we all feel so pressured to be perfect in what we post online, that we are all so concerned with what we look like to other people that we don’t take time to care about who we really are and how we’re really walking around in the world. But ours is the generation that started it—we picked up Xanga and MySpace and ran with them, spending hours upon hours carefully building our image. Will we ever stop?

Now it’s different. Nobody uses MySpace anymore, except maybe some bands (sorry, Justin Timberlake). But it was like the hydra—we lopped off a head and two more sprung up. Now we have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Vine, Tumblr, Reddit, Pinterest. We have to post enough, be clever enough, be pretty enough, be professional enough, be funny enough, be in-the-know enough, be constant enough and be rich enough.

There is a place for filtering (pun intended) what you put online. We live in a world where employers Google applicants and assess them based on what they think is professional. So be professional, sure. But where is the line, if there is one at all?

I recently deleted all my social media (barring LinkedIn) because I just got sick of it. From my Twitter (and, to be honest, my Literally, Darling articles) you would have thought I was a narcissistic writer book-lover SFFH fan Lincolnophile who listens to too much Americana music on Spotify and had a pathological obsession with retweeting @pourmecoffee. From my Facebook and/or Instagram you would have seen a carefully crafted University of Alabama graduate, poised and professional and always smiling, not posting too much (because that’s obnoxious, amirite?) but just enough to remind people that yeah, I’m still here, and yeah, my life is still perfect.

Am I a narcissistic writer book-lover SFFH fan Lincolnophile who listens to too much Americana music on Spotify and has a pathological obsession with retweeting @pourmecoffee? Yes. Machiavellian dictator complex? Sure; I do actually own a well-worn copy of “The Prince.” But that’s an image that I intended people to see. It’s what I put out there for the world. What you don’t know is that—plot twist—I do actually have a heart. Once, after touring my local animal shelter for a story I was writing, I cried in my car for 20 minutes. Not too long ago I bought an elderly man’s groceries because his credit card wasn’t working. I beat myself up when I drive past a hitch-hiker and am too scared or judgmental to give them a ride. I am petrified of disappointing the people who love me and I say I don’t care, but I do. Sometimes I struggle with myself when I look in the mirror, and I get lonely, same as everyone.

You’ll notice I rarely write “in-depth” articles about myself or my feelings. I’m still not OK with the idea of listing my recent “disappointments” (what I consider disappointing, anyway) for the world. I think that’s how I intended this article to end, subconsciously, with some sort of list. But I think that’s an alright thing to do. In theory, I hypocritically encourage it. We have that power, that right, and we have the responsibility to accept (read: not judge) others if they choose honesty over a meticulously prepared Internet presence. Sometimes I think we’ve never taken the time to understand that everything we have to offer is valuable, not just what we think people are most interested in seeing. A decade of social media, tweet after filtered photo after witty comment, and I am still just a caricature of myself. How disappointing.

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