Yuri Chang | I hate you, but I love you
Ideal you versus actual you
Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 01:09
I’m sure on a campus as small as Tufts’, it isn’t unusual to have seen a person’s Facebook profile before actually meeting that person in real life. For example, this person could be your best friend’s lab partner, the girl who serves you your Lucy in the Chai at the Rez or that guy who works at Tisch Reserves who checked out the EC-5 textbook to you about a dozen times. So although you may be shaking his hand as you introduce yourselves, you’re pretending that you haven’t already browsed through his likes and dislikes, haven’t already seen that he listens to Diplo and Florence + the Machine and are aware of his profile picture taken at his volunteer trip to Guatemala.
With social media, the process of getting to know someone has been altered from face-to-face interactions in which two people slowly reveal their tastes and interests to simply going on a Facebook page and dissecting someone’s Likes and Dislikes. Theoretically, by having already seen that person’s Facebook page you have a basic idea of who that person is. However, this is based upon the assumption that our Facebook profiles are mirror images of ourselves, when in fact they are just as constructed and pre-meditated as the way we decide to decorate our dorm rooms.
Take for example, the Facebook group that you joined as a pre-frosh and might have found your roommate through. Many times these matchups end up working out well, but each year there are always cases in which the two kids who thought they were going to be besties end up wanting to strangle each other come May.
It would be naive to believe that a disconnect does not exist between a person’s online profile and the actual person. With these pages, we get to edit, we get to delete and we get to retouch; we are curators of a vision we have of ourselves. Social media presents amazing opportunities to be creative, inventive and adventurous, but I also fear that we are losing our ability to be truthful to who we really are and instead are playing to an audience with an enormous pressure to be, well, cool.
A friend recently confided in me that she and her boyfriend were having issues about the way he depicts himself online. In person, he is a highly intelligent and endearingly dorky guy who is working on building up his new business project. Yet his online identity channels an air of Kanye West as he posts douchey tweets on Twitter to match his entrepreneurial, big-man-in-the-business-world persona.
I see social media platforms as realms of idealized versions of ourselves interacting with idealized versions of others. When you are tweeting at, posting on, liking or thumbs-upping at someone else, these interactions are published for the rest of the community to see, where the pressure to be awesome is on full force. I like to imagine an off-campus basement party in which all of our online personas are hanging out together. At this party, all the conversations are witty and everyone looks really great in each photo taken. All of the attendees’ tastes are awesomely indie and, at the same time, modestly mainstream. At this party, no one secretly listens to Miley Cyrus, finds Eddie Murphy movies funny or occasionally checks Perez Hilton for celeb gossip. Some may see these as flaws that ought to be hidden, when really they are what separate us from being a profile page and make us human in our imperfect yet incredible complexities.
Yuri Chang is a senior majoring in international relations. She can be reached at Yuri.Chang@tufts.edu.