An article by Lauren Gardner in yesterday’s Inflectionist reflects on the difference between how we present ourselves in the semi-anonymous world of the internet and how we present ourselves offline. Gardner argues that humanity would be well-served if we were able to better integrate these two versions of self. We need to let our “online and offline personas merge,” she says.
The erasure of personal boundaries that the online world offers can be greatly beneficial in our offline interactions; it opens us up, encourages us to mingle with all walks of life, and proves to be a great learning experience. If we felt as comfortable being honest with people offline as we do online, we would see a great shift in our personal connections. Sometimes boundaries get in the way of truly understanding, appreciating and empathizing with someone.
By the same token, the formality that the offline world offers can be greatly beneficial to our online interactions. If we communicated in the online world half as gracefully as we do in the offline world, we would see how effective eloquent communication is in getting our points across.
Before we can merge our online self with an offline self, though, we have a bit of merging to do to create a single offline persona. In the offline world your parent persona is much different than your hanging-out-with-friends persona. Your job interview persona is different from your evening-with-your-lover persona. Your interacting-with-a-shop-clerk persona is different from your coffee-hour-in-church persona.
Maybe there are times when it would make life better if we were as nurturing to our bosses as to our children, or as affectionate with our shop clerks as with our lovers or as formal with our families as with the high status we are work hard to impress. For the most part, presenting different personas for different people in different places is simply what we do.
Is one of these personas the real you? Are all of them aspects of you or are none of them really you?