Social Media – Online vs. Offline

With the proliferation of social media platforms, friendships and relationships that begin or are based solely online are becoming more and more common. Whether it be chatting with a significant other on a dating app like Tinder before meeting up with them in person or becoming mutual followers with someone on Twitter because of a mutual interest, many of our friendships now have some degree of an online component. With this in mind, it can be very important to consider the dichotomies that can sometimes exist between an online profile and and an offline personality.

Social media platforms such as Facebook allow users a fair amount of control over their profile and the content that they decide to share for their friends to see. If an individual doesn’t want to post a photo of themselves because they don’t like how they look in it, they won’t post it and none of their social circle will ever know that the photo even existed. Social media users have relatively complete control over the way that their internet presence is perceived by others. As we saw in class with the discussion of the employee who was fired due to racist comments from his friends that were posted on one of his photos, there are some circumstances where those that you associate yourself with can have a hand in crafting your social media presence. However, generally speaking, the vast majority of profiles are crafted by the user to meet their specifications or manner in which they want to present themselves. People see only what the user wants people to see.

facebook_chat

A quick browse through Tinder (which I haven’t personally used, but have observed many of my friends using) shows a plethora of profiles of potential friends or significant others. Each one of these is notated by a few lines about the individual behind the profile. Most make mention of the current school that the person attends, a couple interests that they think are important, a couple of jokes, what they are looking for on the app, or some combination of these and other things. These profile descriptions are purposely crafted by a user, in hopes of finding and striking up conversation with someone who shares a mutual interest. If someone named Matt is incredibly passionate about the New England Patriots, then he will likely mention it in his profile description so that if someone that is also a huge Patriots fan sees him on their app, they will know that they have this major interest in common and might be able to have a nice connection.

Additionally, as previously mentioned, users have total control over the photos that populate their profiles. Sticking with the Tinder example, when someone is browsing on the app they are usually making split-second decisions about whether or not they see any potential friendship or relationship developing with this individual. All of this judgement, about an entire person’s existence, is based on a few lines of words and a handful of photos. I would wager that it is typically very uncommon for someone to upload a picture of themselves to Tinder that shows them in a very disheveled moment (such as just after waking up). Users want their profiles and lives to be interesting to other individuals, regardless of whether or not they are looking for a serious relationship, and typically select their best selfies or photos to upload to the app.Tinder2My point in writing this blog post is to raise the question of whether or not friendships that begin on social media adequately prepare people for offline interactions. I personally have met many folks online, mostly on Facebook, through the music community. A good number of these I have met in person at a later date and had great experiences with. However, there is always a bit of a gap between these in-person interactions and past internet correspondences. Reading lines of text on a laptop screen is slightly different than hearing an actual voice speaking to you, with inflections and tones and sarcasm and a plethora of other entities that are entirely lost online. Not only that, but the concept of mutual interests could be slightly skewed when people meet up in-person for the first time. If all you know about someone from the internet is how much they love music, then conversation could get very stale or awkward when you try to change topics once you meet up. Even someone who is as passionate about music as I am has a ton of other interests and topics for discussion that might not be readily apparent from my social media channels.

What do all of you think about this? Do you think that social media provides a helpful lens through which to learn about someone? Do you think that these online interactions have an unjust impact on someone’s perception of someone else? I’d be very curious to hear your thoughts!

5 comments

  1. Great post!! I have always think about social media as a way to stay in contact with friends and family that live far away. I am for another country, so I think that without social media, my friendships back home will be non existent. I think apps like Facebook, snapchat and instagram helps us feel close to people that we might not have seeing in a long time. But I like how your blog talks about this situation in another perspective: meeting people in social media, and trying to bring that relation into real life. I think I have never met a friend first online and later in person, but I think social media has just become a new channel to meet people. I agree with you that people post the best photos of themselves to give a better impression, but I also think that when you meet someone new in the street, you are going to give the best impression of yourself without being total open to the new person. I also think social media can help people be more open and honest, because they haven’t met the person and its harder to feel judge by someone through an app.

  2. Very relatable topic. I have a love/hate relationship with all social media platforms, but one thing I really do love is that allows you connect with individuals that you would not otherwise to be able to connect to. I do agree that people’s agency and their “presentation of self” (Goffman) can be very much skewed. I know that I, myself, would not upload a picture of myself where I had just woken up and thought I looked bad. I am also aware that many people take it much further than this. The selectiveness itself helps to skew our perceptions of people. Pictures posted on social media today are all about the ones you look the best in and the ones you look like you’re having the most fun. I know that many of my friends try to take/post pictures that make it seem like the social events they are at are “crazy” and “wild” but as I am with them there also most of the times, I know that this is not the reality. That makes me wonder how many other people do that and which social media pages actually contain a true depiction of a person and their life.

  3. I touched on a lot of similar themes when I did my presentation a few weeks ago on social media and dating. Social media has caused much of our communication, whether with friends or possibly with dates on Tinder, to become completely digital. Digital communication is completely lacking in things like body language, tone, the showing of emotions, and so much more. I’ve been interested in body language for quite some time now, and one of the statistics that gets thrown around in a lot of body language books is that about 93% of communication in an in-person interaction is nonverbal. Whether or not one fully believes this statistic, the point still stands that body language plays a major role in how we communicate and connect with other people, and this is fully left out of our digital communication on social media. Social media also enables people to sit back and think about how they want to respond, which better enables them to be disingenuous on social media or to only use calculated/canned lines. One other interesting takeaway from my presentation that relates to your blog involves how people try to portray themselves in the best light on social media. When I gathered up statistics on online dating, I found a stat which said that 80% of online daters admit to outright lying about the objective facts about themselves (whether income, employment, age, physical stature or more). And that 80% is only the people who admitted it, and I’m sure that remaining 20% are still guilty of things like using the most aesthetically pleasing photos of themselves. These stats just go to show that our interactions on social media have become very disingenuous, and this can definitely have a detrimental impact when people get a dose of reality and actually speak in-person.

  4. My experience is that SM most often is a tool for supporting existing relationships, rather than finding new ones. Maybe occasionally it brings new connections (would make complete sense for college students), but I think of SM more as maintaining relationships rather than developing them. Of course, I’m old and married, so it may be a function of my social setting.

  5. Depending on the platform being use, I think people definitely tailor how they present themselves on social media. Someone on Facebook may try to appear fun and outgoing, on tinder people put their most attractive photos, on snap chat or Instagram you want to show others you’re have a better time than they are, and alternatively on Linkedin we want to show how profession we can be. I can’t be hypocritical and say I don’t do the same, I may not completely alter my various social media accounts, but there is definitely intent behind everything I post. I think the connectivity aspect of social media drives people’s social anxiety as we strive to be accepted by others.

%d bloggers like this: