Narcissism is often considered to be the driver of a digital network’s success. Omitting certain details (whether unflattering or boring) and highlighting successes has become the unsurprising norm. And this duality of our existence continues to grow the more that the internet pervades our lives. This fissure also begins to develop earlier and earlier as younger people are born into a world where the internet is simply a standard utility.
But aside from the obvious ego-driven elements of this growing divide, there are other (arguably less superficial) trends emerging:
Mental Health: Infrequently do people post of pending mental issues that are plaguing them. People are often reluctant to share emotional and mental problems with a doctor let alone their personal networks. Aaron Swartz is a recent sad example of turmoil that was brewing in a promising (though sometimes misguided) internet activist. What could he have accomplished if he hadn’t hidden the mental issues that led him down dangerous paths that ultimately led to him ending his life?
Professional skills: The peope who watch our careers progress from the outside (not colleagues) generally see two types of professional mile markers. 1) Promotions and new jobs. 2) Industry related insights and links that we share through our social streams. We appear smarter, more capable of handing a large variety of work, and in high demand. As resumes become less valuable and a “google search of your name” becomes a standard vetting tool, our societies methods of finding qualified candidates is changing. While some may think that having more information to judge by is a good thing, it also makes it far easier to misinterpret a professional’s true talents and strengths. People are making hiring decisions based on fewer in-person conversations and more based on online footprints. And this can prove detrimental to both employers and employees.
Romantic status: As someone who asked his future wife to marry him via internet meme, I’m highly attuned to this. I share my love for Katie very publicly, and am sensitive to anything I say online to avoid ever hurting her feelings. I am silly with her online, and offline. It took many years of being a heavy social media user and many relationships to finally reach a point where I knew how to handle this duality. I think this particular segment of the internet will continue to become difficult for people to manage, especially for those that are in new relationships.
So why do we need to deal with this duality? Because we exist in two different worlds, one being global and bite-sized, the other being local and physical, and it is impossible for those two circles to not overlap. When these fusions take place, it can lead to great things like new friends, opportunities, and fun. On the flip-side it can lead to situations that can massively affect livelihoods and relationships when the two individuals vary more than they should.
Ultimately, the not-so-easy solution to dealing with this division of our “selves?” A mindful and dedicated commitment to honesty that pushes our digital personas closer to our actual ones.