Editing Ourselves For Social Media

One of the reasons I don’t like app dating is the lack of trust involved. Do you really look like your picture? Are you actually a habitual New York Times reader? How do you genuinely feel about the job you boast of so proudly in your bio?

And because of this distrust I’m always reluctant to meet people in person. Even after messaging them back and forth for a while, I remain indecisive and that’s because I know that the Internet allows for editing.

Of course I’m inherently suspicious of the people who don’t edit – the ones who hit on me in point two five seconds or who say “hook ups only” in their bio. But I’m also suspicious of the people who edit too much. Because to me that can be just as telling, if not actually worse. What are you hiding behind the glossy picture of a handsome employed dog lover? You’re too perfect to be on a dating app, so obviously there must be something wrong with you.

In her Ted Talk Connected But Alone? Sherry Turkle says this of online activity:

“Texting, email, posting – all of these things let us present the self as we want to be. We get to edit and that means we get to delete, and that means we get to retouch, the face, the voice, the flesh, the body – not too little, not too much, just right.”

I’ll be the first to admit that I do this constantly. I’m always thinking about the types of blog posts that are appropriate to post online for public readership, customizing my Facebook sharing settings to exclude relatives and coworkers from certain posts, and even editing my own dating app profile to present the best version of myself. All the things I write about are true – I do like superheroes and baseball and books – but there’s so many other things that I routinely leave out of social media. So who am I really? What am I hiding between the lines of my autobiography?

Turkle goes on in her speech to make an additional point about relationships that I thought was very accurate. She says:

“Human relationships are rich and they’re messy and they’re demanding. And we clean them up with technology.”

And this is something that I have a problem with because it highlights the insincerity of my own actions as well as those of my potential suitors. By cleaning up our image online we protect our careers and our private lives from backlash. We save our future selves from being judged on the words and actions of our present selves and most of the time that’s a good thing because we change as people, learning from our mistakes and altering our opinions over time. I write anonymously on this blog for exactly that reason. Because while I’ve meant every word of what I’ve written and posted on this blog, who’s to say that I’ll feel the same way in a year or two?

But when we’re trying to get to know people, hiding who we are only does us a disservice. If we create and then try to perpetuate indefinitely flat, edited images of ourselves, then we’ll never understand what it means to be truly loved and appreciated for the 3D and technicolor versions that we actually are. I’m not saying we should air our dirty laundry on a first date or public profile, but being open and unapologetic about ourselves helps others to understand and connect with us.

So I think that going forward we need to keep these ideas and thoughts in mind when filtering our online presence. Should we maybe include one silly #nofilter or #nomakeup selfie in our profile? Should we be honest about the number of books we’ve read this year even at the risk of sounding like a know-it-all? How much editing is too much editing?

In the last few weeks I’ve started to give this some additional thought because, of all places, I think that I’m most honest online when I’m publishing here on this blog. It may have very few readers other than myself and my mother (hi, Mom!), but I think I’ve successfully created a safe space to air and discuss my thoughts, a place where myself and others can converse honestly. And I love that.

So let me know what you think about this in the comments down below. I’d love to hear some other thoughts on the issue.

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3 thoughts on “Editing Ourselves For Social Media

  1. I definitely have the same issue with dating sites. It doesn’t help that basically every time I do decide to meet someone in person, they seem completely different. I try to be honest in my profile because I want people to be honest with me, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t spend like 30 minutes rewriting the few “about me” sentences (possibly exaggerated but you see my point). So yeah, spot on post.

    Like

    1. I don’t feel like people are unusually dishonest. I just feel like I’m getting the “edited honesty.” And that’s not quite the same as being 100% truthful.

      So I get what you mean. Its quite frustrating to see in others…and in myself.

      Like

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