THE BLOG

The Social Media Effect: Are You Really Who You Portray Online?

08/07/2013 04:33 pm ET | Updated Oct 07, 2013

Over the past 15 years, the world as we know it has been taken by storm through the onset of social media. According to Comscore (2011) about 90 percent of U.S. Internet users visit a social media site each month. Because we live in such a largely global-society, creating and maintaining an online presence has become most relevant in promoting your brand and expanding your social network.

As we know, perception is everything; especially in the world of social media. In terms of perception, we all have an ideal self. We all wish to maximize our careers, our profession, and aspire to be like those who we find most successful. As the use of social media continues to evolve; the concept of presenting our ideal selves versus our real selves has become more and more prevalent on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, and even LinkedIn.

As research suggests, your "real self" is what you are - your attributes, your characteristics, and your personality. Your "ideal self" is what you feel you should be; much of it due to societal and environmental influences. From a societal standpoint, many of us are driven by competition, achievement, and status; hence, the creation and portrayal of our ideal selves.

Consider the fact that on social media sites, we consider our profiles to be presentations of who we are. Therefore, through interaction with the social medium, the real and ideal selves intersect; and the ideal self is at least partially actualized. In essence, our online selves represent our ideals and eliminate many of our other real components.

The question we have to ask ourselves is: Are we really presenting who we are or are we presenting a hyper-idealistic version of ourselves? It has been argued that the social media effect creates a false sense of self and self-esteem through the use of likes, fans, comments, posts, etc. For many social media users, it is an esteem booster, which explains why so many people spend so much time on social media. It provides many individuals with a false sense of self and an inflated sense of who they really are.

In considering these points, here are three important factors to consider while social networking:

1. Stop comparing yourself to others. When you compare yourself to others, you are comparing yourself to the perception of what you think the person is. In reality, many people are presenting only their ideal selves online. Therefore, you are comparing yourself to an ideal figure, not a true representation.

2. Authenticity is Key. Stay true to your real self. Instead of creating an inflated, unrealistic version of yourself; examine who you are and your best attributes. Determine what makes you unique and focus your attention on enhancing yourself. Ask yourself this question, "Would you rather 1,000 carbon copies of replicas or one authentic version of yourself?" People like individuals who are relatable, yet, real. Do not be afraid to show who you really are.

3. Align your "Real" self with your "Ideal" self. If you are portraying yourself as an ideal figure or with an ideal career, why not work towards those goals to achieve your ideal status? As we know, everything in life worth doing takes time, effort, energy, and persistence.

As a final point, if you're consistent and transparent in your online and offline persona, you have nothing to fear from exposure (Emily Magazine, 2013). Everything about your online persona should be reflective of your offline persona i.e. your background, experience, education, etc. Rather than focusing your attention and effort into creating an ideal online persona, use your time and effort to accomplish the goals that will align your real self with your ideal self. By doing so, you will ultimately become more fulfilled as you accomplish the goals that will lead to your path to self-actualization i.e. becoming the best you... the "real" you.