Baring our true selves online
We bare and expose our true selves online, no matter how hard we try to put on masks.
The online web has become our true reality because we spend most of our time in it, even more than the time we devote in our physical reality. Our bodies dwell in the physical world, but our minds live in virtual reality on most of our waking hours. In particular, social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are where we spend most of our days.
Before the pandemic, the migration of most aspects of our lives to the cyberworld was already happening on a large scale. The strict lockdown and social distancing rules caused us to shift even faster to the virtual world. The web has been in existence for a few decades, but in a lot of sense, it’s still a new frontier that’s reconfiguring human behavior, restructuring human relationship, redefining communities, rearranging businesses, reformulating crimes, and rebooting many aspects of our lives.
Because it’s a different reality, many of us reinvent ourselves by creating our virtual persona that, we like to think, retains only “our best foot forward” and is shorn of our perceived imperfections. In the virtual world, the timid becomes daring, the plain-looking becomes alluring, and the enfeebled becomes empowered.
The cyberworld has become a platform to trumpet our endowments, to broadcast our beliefs, and to air our disenchantments. In all, the underlying intention is to get others to bequeath us their affirmation. The web is a virtual garden where we grow our egos.
Behavioral peculiarities not discernible in personal interactions become detectable in our invented cyberidentities. In the cyberworld, we put our guard down and our cyberbehavior can show shades of narcissism and vanity, as well as oddities in our beliefs, biases, and interests. Our cyberidentities are a treasure trove of critical information for potential employers, lovers, and business partners.
We write and post our thoughts on social networking sites as if we’re scribbling in our diaries. The faceless way of communicating our thoughts in these social sites emboldens us to bare our raw emotions and unravel our primal beliefs. We neglect the perils of unburdening ourselves before the whole world.
For those of us who avoid baring our souls in online sites, our nominal acts of liking, sharing, and visiting sites that interest us still expose the contours of our personalities and our eccentricities.
On social networking sites where we spend so much of our time, we allow ourselves to be immersed in the lives of friends and strangers. All the stress and emotional baggage of others get deposited in us. As a result, we either internalize the stress or we become callous because of the bombardment of vicarious anxiety.
The powerful ability of social networking sites to influence our beliefs and shape our behavior has induced politicians, businessmen, and interest groups to employ schemes aimed at swaying us to their agenda. The most sinister among them spread fake news and employ trolls that fabricate false trends. They are the biggest threats to the beneficial viability of networking sites. Unless they’re cleansed, these virtual cancer cells of the cyberworld will destroy infected networking communities.
We don’t notice it, but our online behavior is scrutinized by networking sites and our evaluated preferences are sold to businesses that then proceed to inundate us with targeted advertisements. When I started checking out art sites online, the advertisement spaces in my Facebook page were suddenly featuring art galleries and art auction sites. When I began reading about plants and trees, my Facebook page began featuring paid infomercials about gardening.
The impersonal nature of life in the cyberworld lulls us into a false sense of security—that we can hide behind the screens of our phones or computers, and instead project our invented cyberidentities. In reality, we magnify the true nature of our personalities for the whole world to see.
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