I follow a girl on Twitter whose profile claims she doesn’t follow anyone with whom she wouldn’t have beers in real life. I can totally appreciate that, even though she doesn’t follow me back. In a world filled with Photoshop and photo-bombs, edit and delete, themes and filters and personal manifestos disguised as About Me pages, it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish just how real the relationships we maintain online are.
It is safe to say there are a few — if not many — people who exist in our online lives that we don’t necessarily want to have in our IRL existence.
These people include our parents’ friends who add us on Facebook to try and make themselves feel better about their own mini derelicts. They include the guy we’re too afraid to block on Instagram out of fear he’ll wait outside our workplace late at night for one final gaze. They include the really funny person on Twitter who we just know would yell inappropriate things at the most silent moment of the baseball game. These people are imperative to our online existence just like the friendly panhandler is imperative to our existence in a bustling city.
The issue arises when these people aren’t as cut and dry as the butcher who lists his favourite celebrity as Jeffrey Dahmer. My generation — and moreso the one coming up hot on its trail — has learned how to cultivate online personas like our parents learned to cultivate LSD. We are professionals at creating and re-creating ourselves based on what our present needs require.
So if — like @FakeName1234 proclaims on Twitter — we are to seek online personalities that appeal to whatever identity we ourselves are currently harvesting, that must mean we have some sort of idea what standard filters our personas go through before entering the digital world. There must be some sort of consistency to the online-nee-physical transformation from which we can deduce truth.
Over the past five years, I have met people from my online life in real life over every cocktail and domestic beer imaginable. I have met blog buddies who live in England, Twitter friends who live in the Carolinas and Instagram friends who live in Wyoming. I even once tried to stalk a Vine celebrity in Los Angeles.
Ten times out of 10 I have not been catfished; nine times out of 10 I have not been at all surprised by the person I met.
True to their word, the people I have had the pleasure of meeting through the online world have been intricately faithful to their cyber-selves. Some of them may have been a little shy, some of them may have had pimples and some of them may have ordered a Stella despite boasting posed PBR photos — but none of them were very far off.
The way I’ve come to see it, our online personas have become a canvas on which we are to portray our best selves, and slowly but surely we’re molding our physical selves to fit that picture.
“Just FYI,” I texted a Twitter-friend the other day, “my recent selfie was totally misleading, ‘cause I have bangs now.”
“No worries,” he said. “My profile pic is also misleading. I shaved yesterday.”
So maybe we aren’t quite there yet. How does that saying go? Behind every selfie is 50 failed ones? But my Twirsonality is surprisingly accurate despite my sneaky ability to disguise my early-onset-wrinkles in my profile picture by making it black and white. It’s safe to say that if you came up with three conclusions about me based on my three most recent Tweets you’d be sadly accurate.
Maybe we’re starting to let our guard down because this whole life-online thing is old news. Or maybe, just maybe, we’re really as cool as we think we are.
— Andria is a twenty-something blogger living in Kamloops with her 100 pairs of heels and 200 paperback Penguin Classics.