What’s the best way of getting to know someone—their blog and social media presence, or in person?
Where do you most reveal your true self—in person, or online?
I’m guessing most people would say unhesitatingly, ‘in person.’ But before you confidently plump for that option, consider Jane Austen.
In Pride and Prejudice, Darcy and Elizabeth engage in snatched and confused conversations, resulting in a clumsy proposal of marriage which Elizabeth angrily refuses, believing Darcy to be an unfeeling villain.
It’s only when they write letters to each other that their true selves are revealed. Through Darcy telling his story honestly, without interruption, in a letter to Elizabeth, she realises that she had completely misjudged him.
There are a thousand reasons why we don’t reveal our true selves in person: most conversations revolve around small talk and are snatched in the middle of the busyness of life. Rarely do we get a chance to tell our full story to another human being without interruption. That’s part of why counsellors deserve their money—they provide a service that we don’t get anywhere else.
In the blogosphere we get a chance to step inside people’s stories and hear their passions and dreams. My husband helps people discern whether or not they are called to the ministry, and one of the things he asks people to do is examine carefully their Twitter and Facebook timeline to see what it reveals about them. Anyone who updates their status regularly and honestly will discover that they reveal—perhaps unconsciously—a lot about themselves. There’s a lot of talk about how Facebook and Instagram photos hide reality and give it a positive gloss, and this is true—but there are cracks of truth which show up in social media and blogs.
There are some unpleasant things that creep out online that don’t appear in ‘real life’: loneliness and self-pity can find its way onto Facebook posts; passive-aggressive anger (we all know the ‘I can’t believe someone would do that! YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE’ posts); an obsession with appearance or alcohol, the complete absence of a mention of people or issues supposedly close to our hearts. You can curate your online presence to present a persona, but things still leak out, despite our best efforts.
There are also more positive things that are revealed online: when else do we get to see someone’s creativity, or love of colour, or passion to make the world a better place? When, after our teenage years, do we get to know what music someone else is into? Where else do we get to see an unending supply of cat videos?
Much about the Internet world is artificial, but it’s also possible that our art and stories reveal a true portrait of ourselves. Online, we may not know the whole picture, just as is the case with most friendships in ‘real life.’ But a picture doesn’t have to be complete in order to be true and authentic.
We live in a workaholic, fragmented, frantically-paced society—and that doesn’t make for good conversation. Politics, religion, tragedy, grief, dreams and hopes—these are things we don’t tend to talk about much in polite society and in our daily interactions, but they leak out onto social media and in blogs.
People who have met me in real life say I’m more smiley and funny than they would imagine from my blog. (That probably comes with the territory when you write a blog on the spirituality of suffering – it’s not naturally ‘LOL’ material. Plus, the Internet does Not Know How To Take A Joke). Those who meet me in the everyday may marvel at my ability to make small talk without referring to politics or deep emotions.
It’s natural to want to share our most intimate stories and discoveries with others—we are created to be creative. When God created the world, He wanted to share that with humans; so our inclination to share our creativity with others is a God-given trait.
In everyday interactions, people tell me I am more laid-back and humorous than my blog posts, less ‘intense.’ But those who know me really well also say I am deep and compassionate, and can attest to the fact that I have magic intense eyes that leave people confessing their innermost fears and griefs to me—and those words find a safe place to land. Funnily enough, these confessional interactions also happen in my blog comments—perhaps because honesty and vulnerability breeds honesty and vulnerability.
My close friends and family know me the best and see several different sides to me. But outside of that close circle, who sees the most authentic version of myself—blog readers, or people in ‘real life?’ I’m not sure of the answer.
So if you blog, this is my question to you—where do you most reveal your true self: online or off?
And if you don’t blog or spend much time on social media—well, then the chances are that you won’t be reading this post. But if by some miracle you are—where do you reveal yourself most truly? Who are the people you tell your stories to, share your passions with, swap music recommendations with? Where are the safe places for your words to land?
Writer at Thorns and Gold
Tanya Marlow was in Christian ministry for a decade and a lecturer in Biblical Theology, until she got sick, and became a writer. She likes answering the tricky questions of faith that most avoid, and writing honestly about suffering and searching for God. Tanya has written a short book on Ruth and Naomi’s story in the Bible, interweaving it with her own journey. You can buy it here: Coming Back to God When You Feel Empty