Many times I have come across people who, in real life (IRL) are either shy, reserved and less talkative, than when I chat with them on Facebook, Twitter or Email. These people tend to be the most outgoing, loquacious and flamboyant kind online. I’ve wondered what drives this change in behavior to be different online, and why they are not the same person in real life.
Everybody plays many different roles if life, and behave differently in different social settings. Usually one of these roles is their true self while the others could be a facade, normally you see different aspects of the same person in different situations.
Think about it. Does your partner, in the privacy of your home, see precisely the same person you are when you are at work? Does your boss at work see precisely the same person your friends do? Do you display the same parts of your personality when comforting a friend whose mother died, and when arguing political matters?
Most of the time all of these different behaviors are “true” in the sense that it’s people behaving in ways that are natural for them, under the given circumstances. Sometimes it’s far easier to consistently act out an assumed life style or personality online. Perhaps subconsciously representing one which you would ideally like to have, when you only do so virtually.
It’s not uncommon, for example, for shy people to be less shy in text-online-based media. It’s less personal in a way when you’re not looking the people you’re talking to in the face. Often you also have the luxury of being able to spend time thinking about what you want to say when using text.
Both the Online-Mars and the IRL-Mars are real. They’re both me, and they’ve got a lot in common. There’s also some differences. I shift the aspects of my personality all the time according to what the situation warrants. When I answer my phone at work, I use generic Professional Mars, depending who it is on the line, I may shift to Helpful Customer Service Mars, Frustrated Mars, or concerned Co-worker Mars. These people are all me in different scenarios.
For instance, when I am online, posting ungodly amounts of Instagram pictures, funny puns, pokemon memes, I get unreasonably and uncharacteristically excited about the whole process. Writing material to post, finding puns and meme’s funny, and sharing it with others. I am a poster child for being an extrovert.
Yet I am protected from others by the anonymity (well, a relative one) and a screen. If someone is trying to reach me or converse with me, the conversation will happen on my schedule and on my terms, making me in control of the situation.
When I am at work, and I am dealing with important documents and updating lists, there won’t be a hint of my usual funny self. Everything will be structured, limited, specified, and I sometimes I will come across as cold and assertive. Let’s throw a bit of sarcasm into that mix.
Then I come home, and I am a picture of a domestic goddess – things to do, bills to pay (well, they are mostly automated), exercise routines, walking the dog, house work to be done, and a new culinary (unimpressive) masterpiece’s to be prepared.
May someones online personality has to make up for certain missing elements of themselves in real life. When people speak to each other face to face there is voice inflection, facial expression, and physical cues which all help to deliver what someone is saying. Online, all anyone has is text and maybe emoji’s to give physical cues. The tone of text is often misunderstood. A large vocabulary and the gift for storytelling serves one much better in text communication whereas those things might seem pretentious in verbal communication.
Add to this that it’s much easier to say certain things to strangers or an audience from the comfort of one’s couch, chair, office or bed. Than it might be in reality where one has any number of fears, insecurities or simply lacks certain social graces.
Speaking for myself, I feel am just as clever, attractive, open-minded and interesting online and face-to-face. Although Chatting online has the added bonus I don’t have to consider my wardrobe and makeup choices.