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Revealing one’s true identity

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.

As the internet gained prominence in our lives, we gave up anonymity and also the desire to mask our real identity online. Indeed, online activities are no longer separable from our real lives, but an integral part of it. According to Ofcom, UK adults are now spending over 20 hours a week online: twice as much as 10 years ago. Similar metrics have been reported for the US, with the biggest chunk of online time (around 30%) devoted to social networking.

Yet in psychological terms there is no difference between the meaning of these dematerialised digital artefacts and our physical possessions – they both help us express important aspects of our identity to others and these identity claims provide the core ingredients of our digital reputation. A great deal of scientific research has highlighted the portability of our analogue selves to the digital world. The common theme of these studies is that, although the internet may have provided an escapism from everyday life, it is mostly mimicking it.