The Virtual Life of a Real Person: Twitter

The virtual life of a real person: Twitter

The Conversation

On twitter, are we being someone we’re not.. or who we really are?.. #imo

@PersonA: its the difference between mouth n mind, on twitter, we speak with our mind via hands. Seriously speaking– the internet, especially social networking, is a place of no faces just voices (thoughts)- real or not.

@PersonB @PersonC: there’s a barrier, which allows you to be a bit more bold in saying what u want online.. which u might not in person.

@PersonA: dat barrier is instant reactions in person n benefit of doubt, online. Evry wrng move, gets benefit of doubt, online @PersonC

@PersonB: hmm idk, i personally feel less inhibited to say some things on twitter. some of which i wld hesitate 2 say in person @PersonC

@PersonA: online, if u say smthing bad n get a bad reaction, u have d room to say u meant smthing else n get d benefit of doubt @PersonC

@PersonB: does that mean we’re more cautious/held back in real life interactions than online? online, you’re more free/open?

The Confusion

Are you the person we know online or are you really who you are in person? Confused? Good, you should be! – because this is a topic that I find fascinating as much as I find baffling! If you’re frequently on social networking sites, like Twitter or Facebook, then you are leading an online life in addition to an offline life. You’re in two worlds – the real and the virtual. Now tell me this, how much of your online life overlaps with your real life? Are you exactly the person you are online as you are offline? I’d argue that you’re not and that, to some extent, it’s almost like you’re leading dual lives.

The Observation

I’ve noticed that on Twitter that the quiet are outspoken and the outspoken are… well, annoying. The online world presents as open microphone – speak your mind, share your thoughts, anonymously or not – without the fear of that instant face-to-face reaction from your audience. Your computer screen is a barrier. That barrier is a safety blanket. You’re less hesitant to say things online that you normally wouldn’t in person. In reality or in person you may be more cautious; you might hold back or maybe think twice before saying something. Online, you just tweet it out… after all, there is the option to delete afterwards.

I’m going to go as far as to say that we all do this – we all create an alter ego for ourselves online – to some degree, because somehow we are each lacking something in our lives. It could be anything. But it’s something we seek for fulfilment. Acceptance perhaps. That feeling of fitting in. Belonging – we all desire that. After all, it’s human nature. Perhaps subconsciously, it is that what pulls us into the online world. I’m not saying that you’re seeking acceptance online because you are ostracised from society.

Why is life so complicated?

What I am saying is that, simply, it’s an innate desire to want to find your niche. You can try what you wouldn’t in ‘real life’ – You can wildly tweet your mind; show off your intelligence in hope of gaining approval or that oh-so-wonderful re-tweet. Admit that you love getting your tweets re-tweeted! You can start a debate or discussion on whatever you want with likeminded individuals that you may not have access to in real life. You can even tweet simple, mundane things that most of us tend to agree with, like “Why is life so complicated?” or “Justin Bieber is hot”. OK, you won’t find me agreeing to the latter one, but I’m pretty sure you’ll find others on Twitter who do.

Maybe it’s companionship. Sure, you have your ‘real life’ friends, but maybe there is a small feeling of loneliness that you seek to fulfill by building an online identity and in doing so, creating a personalised online world for yourself. With Twitter, at least in my opinion and once you have established a following, you don’t feel all that alone. Speak – tweet – your heart out, someone is bound to listen. You will always have an ear (or two… or more) online who will listen to you rant, sympathise, offer a shoulder or some wisdom. We are social creatures; no one wants to be alone. It’s a good feeling when you always have someone around to listen to you. You tend to do all that you can to make sure your online persona is liked. That could mean constantly being friendly and polite to others online, when in reality we aren’t always happy, kind, jolly folks 24-7. Do you really smile to ‘strangers’ as much as you send smileys on Twitter?

The Questions

So what does this all mean? What are we all seeking online? Are we all being someone we’re not, or alternatively, someone who we really are online?  When are you most in your element? Online or off? Or Both?

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About the Author:

An Indo-Canadian grad student and diary writer-turned-novice blogger with a simplistic, selfish passion for writing. Currently trying to make sense of her little world while working towards fulfilling her big dreams. You may follow her on twitter @r3nuka

  • BR

    Very well said!!

    Yes, Twitter does provide one a voice and does help people to satiate that feeling of loneliness to some extent. However, my only problem is with people who overdo it. Say somebody tweeting every 3 minutes and just writing #havingchai, walking out, on the phone, sipping water…

  • Vishal

    I will agree with you to on a lot of points but not all.

    1. Yes i do look for like minded people on twitter coz unfortunately i dont have such people in my office.

    2. I work during night shifts which leaves me with no social life on weekdays but then twitter gives me that social life 24×7.

    3. As far as Dual lives are concerned i kinda disagree coz i am quite similar in real life apart from the fact that i might not be so comfortable initiating a conversation with a pretty girl in real world as i do on twitter. Other than that i am quite the same guy but yes i agree with you that a lot of tweeps are not which I find it hard to understand.

    Last but not the least twitter gives me real time interesting news that i would never find on TV/Print media.

  • Pingback: The virtual life of a real person: Twitter « Renu ~ life IMO()

  • Mohit

    I think the real person in you is more reflected online… especially for a person who is introvert and shy in public places, It s a great place for them come out. The fear of the crowd, the fear of reactions is not so much affecting you.

    At the same time there are real life things which cant be discussed online, as you want the privacy which is just not possible on twitter or any social network.

    At the end, i guess you try to take the good points out of both the worlds.

  • R

    I think it’s opposite for me. I am more quiet and hold back my thoughts on Twitter or FB. I can express my thoughts to my real life friends which I do not (or cannot?) with my online friends.

    Why? Because you can be misunderstood by your online friends as they do not know you that well whilst you can freely express yourself to your real life friends.

    P.S. @renu19 You know who I am. :P

  • Renu

    Thanks for all your interesting comments! :)

    Out of curiosity (for those of you on Facebook and Twitter): Is there any difference in the way you ‘are’ on these two social networking sites? Are you using both for the same purpose and in the same way? Which do you prefer? Are you more comfortable being yourself on one over the other?

    Thoughts, anyone?

  • Meeta

    To some extent each one of us moves around with a certain mask/screen..reasons vary from person to person..the screen which lies between the individual & the virtual world..allows them at times the freedom to let that mask other times,this screen allows people to put up a screen between their reality & themselves.

  • @iafeliciano

    Social media makes us just as if not more accountable for what we say and how we portray ourselves. Facebook and Twitter are forever (at least until the entire internet crashes) and old friends, new friends, employers, potential employers, family members, potential family members can all see what was said months or years ago. If you don’t care if your potential employer see all your drunken pictures on Facebook or your tweet about how you woke up late for work and just called in sick, then hey, go to town with it. If you do care you probably wouldn’t post it and most likely you wouldn’t parade around your office with the same pictures or tell people how you called out the day before. Does this make you more you? I don’t see why not.

    Twitter and Facebook are online versions of oneself. But unlike in the real world, where we are who we are regardless if we are self-aware, the online world give us the opportunity to (for lack of a better term) filter ourselves. Online, one has time to tactfully plan out the next 140 character phrase, status update, comment, etc. Whatever is there after send is clicked is there forever (unless you are a deleter). So be sure that’s what you want to say.

  • Hit Wicked

    Well, its a brilliant read btw. I sternly believe, if you are quite active on Twitter, you are as real as real can be. You might content yourself in reality but on Twitter you FTW and start expressing every thought of yours. Even if you just slipped off a banana on the road and nobody watched you, your followers will surely give a LOL or sympathy tweet once you tweet it, without fail. So people on Twitter, active users only, say who tweet more than they speak, are actually themselves.

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