Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Internet personalities

If you've ever tried to learn a foreign language, you're familiar with the idea that you can become a different person in that other language. You don't "sound" the same. It's harder to make jokes or your sense of humor may just not make sense to native speakers, it can be difficult to string a coherent sentence together, your tone of voice changes, your vocabulary is more limited and you make grammar mistakes so that you sound like a small child instead of an adult... the list goes on. Eventually with time, practice and immersion in that foreign language you will be able to express yourself as you would in your native tongue but it is not easy to reach that point.

This isn't actually a post about how far my French skills have fallen and how I need to practice more often, although those are both true facts. I was thinking about another medium through which we sometimes have trouble expressing ourselves, and that is the internet.

It's no longer weird to meet people on the internet, like it was back in the day when we first got AOL at my house and my parents wouldn't let me use chat rooms. They were right, of course, but I thought it was terribly mean of them because my friend was allowed to use chat rooms at her house. Everyone meets on the internet these days. Almost everyone can be found with a Google search. The question is, what picture of ourselves are we presenting to the world on the internet? How do we communicate ourselves, our personalities?

Take me, for example. I have never met the majority of people who read my blog in person. I imagine that you all keep coming to read this because you like me, otherwise you wouldn't waste your time here! But if we were to meet in person would we actually get along? You might find that I'm totally different in person than I present myself as on my blog! I like to think that this blog represents my personality and I strive for a more or less conversational style when I write my posts, but I really can't judge how I'm perceived by other people, can I? In person you might find me totally annoying. Maybe I'm so socially inept that it's awkward to spend any amount of time with me. Maybe I have strange mannerisms. Maybe I make a lot of stupid jokes. Maybe I'm just stupid (I really hope that isn't true!). No matter how much I think this blog is a more or less true representation of me, there are of course pieces that are missing, and pieces that can't be known without actually meeting someone face to face.

The same rule holds true for twitter, facebook, and of course internet dating. It makes sense to date on the internet: you can find someone with common interests and goals and whatever. It just seems that it's so easy to lie on those websites and represent yourself as someone else. Take profile pictures, for instance. I would bet that most people pick the one picture taken 5 years ago where they look like a supermodel even if since then they've gained 300 lbs and developed a disfiguring fungal growth on their face. I have never done online dating but I fully admit that if I were on a dating website that's what I would do. I'm still mostly bald, I'm not about to put a picture of my bald self out there for everyone to ignore. I can make myself feel bad enough without having anonymous jerks on the internet do it for me! And what about those intangibles that aren't communicated through dating profiles? I doubt there is a box to check for "inability to feel compassion" or other personality quirks that might be deal-breakers.

What if the personality you present on the internet is much more annoying than your real personality? I think about people - well, one person in particular - who when I was on twitter used to complain constantly about everything. Now I have a bad impression of this person and I have no idea if it's a correct impression because I have only met them once. But I'll tell you what, I have very little desire to meet them again because of the personality they presented on twitter.

Do you think your internet footprint represents who you are? Do you keep your personality concealed online or do you let it all hang out? Do you think you'd like me in person?


Monique said...

I think I'd like you in person! We have a lot of similar interests (struggling in French and BASEBALL haha).

But yeah, I totally was thinking about the same thing the other day. About the people I do and don't know who read my blog, follow me on Twitter, etc. But also, my job calls for occasions like this.

I send people stats and game recaps and info ALL the time. I prob don't know 75% of these people, yet I'm supposed to develop a close working relationship with them? It's weird, but neat how the world's shrinking so much!

Andromeda said...

I've met you and you're definitely not stupid! More bubbly than I imagined, I think your blog tends to be kind of serious (not just now, but even while in France) so I was happy to see you were a very fun, talkative person :-)

It's funny for me to go back and reread my own posts, I think sometimes how ridiculous I sound, lol. So not sure what others see in my blog-personality, hopefully not the weird stuff I notice, haha.

shannon said...

I can definitely say that you're awesome in person. I read very few blogs of people I haven't ever met, and I certainly wouldn't be reading a blog of someone I didn't like!

People have told me my blog is too mundane, or that my posts are too long, but I don't care. I first started the blog for my mom and some friends and family back home, and that's the stuff they want to hear. Plus, I have the worse memory ever, so when I go back and read old posts, I'm reminded of little events that make me smile that I would have forgotten otherwise.

Zhu said...

I think my Internet footprints do tell pretty well who I am, which doesn't mean I can't be a total pain in the butt :-)

So far, the few blog friends I met were pretty much like I expected them to be, I guess their writing do tell a lot of themselves. It may be different for Facebook type of accounts, where you don't write as much.

I always have trouble imagining how people are physically though. I can't imagine you for instance!

getyourselfconnected said...

I think I come across 100% as I am in real life except my major subject material (economics) is pretty cut and dry. Of course Friday Night is an open window to mee, so those I think are a good gauge.

I have had extensive email contact with may readers and so far no one has been like "you are so different writing email than the blog" but that's not quite the same. I have only met two folks from the blog, and they thought I was just like I write, only more funny and much, much better looking than they imagined, HA!

I know I would like you in person, as long as what you write is from the heart and honest. Yup, I am 100% sure I would!

Great post and great thought experiment!

au soleil levant said...

Monique - I think I'd like you in person too! How about Stephen Strasburg last night? Pretty good major league debut! That's interesting that your job is based on communicating with people you don't know. I love how the internet makes that possible - well, it was possible before, but now it's much less expensive than long distance phone calls used to be.

Andromeda - I think you are absolutely right, I do come off as more serious here than I do in person. And I'm glad you don't think I'm stupid! I don't think you sound ridiculous on your blog, you just have a lot more funny stories than I do :)

Shannon - thanks! You are pretty cool yourself :) As long as you like your blog, who cares what anyone else thinks? Like you said, this way you have a nice record to look back on of the crazy experiences you've had in Chauny.

Zhu - ehh, you don't seem like too much of a pain in the butt to me! If you want to know what I look like, here's a pretty accurate picture:


The funny part is that someone actually told me once that I look like this character!

GYSC - Thanks! true that econ is a little dry, but you at least talk about it in an interesting way! So I guess you're saying that you fall closer to the Hayden Christensen end of the Darth Vader spectrum than the James Earl Jones end? Hee hee :)

Mary Harvest Kitchen said...

Hmm. As, evidently, the first commenter who knows you VERY well, I think the blog is pretty accurate to who you are and what you're thinking about...though, of course, I can fill in the gaps of interpretation with my knowledge of you, so my opinion might not be helpful.

Anyhow, um, you're not any of the things in the list (too awkward to spend any time around? geez).

But it's interesting about internet dating. I read a REALLY interesting book about internet dating a few years ago--called "I Love you, Let's Meet". You have to read it, firstly because it's interesting and secondly because I just spent half an hour searching to find the title. Lol. Anyhow, hope you're well, dear!

getyourselfconnected said...

"I guess you're saying that you fall closer to the Hayden Christensen end of the Darth Vader spectrum than the James Earl Jones end? Hee hee :)"

I saw that at work and almost laughed myself silly! Everyone in the offices was like "send me that funny thing" but of course I could not.

No, I am more the Luke Skywalker because I am a total blondie!

If you search my site for "quabbin" you will see pictures of me in disguise (hat and shades) but that is all I ever post. Im mysterious like that.

au soleil levant said...

Mary - maybe you're just so used to all of my weird habits that they don't seem weird to you anymore! It definitely counts for something for you to think I come through in my blog. The book sounds really interesting, I'll have to check it out.

GYSC - I would never have pegged you as a blond! Glad I provided a laugh. Re: your post tonight, I took a class with Robert Reich while I was in college. Very interesting class, built around two of his books. Anyway, maybe in the spirit of those poor Japanese men being enticed to buy government debt by women, maybe some ABBA "Take a Chance on Me" is in order for Friday night? :)

getyourselfconnected said...

"GYSC - I would never have pegged you as a blond!"

I am not going there!

L said...

Ahhh, those high school days of iming/ICQing with guys I was totally in love with, but in real life didn't reciprocate, and then also talking with guys who were alright online but just plain creepy in person (fellow high school students).

I think an internet presence is true/a reflection of yourself, but it's not a complete picture. It's only a part of your life/personality so you can be surprised by the details you learn when you meet someone in person.

au soleil levant said...

L - I have never heard of anyone actually using ICQ! Wow! Must be a regional thing. "Being surprised by the details" is a good way to think about it.

Leesa said...

YES YES YES!!! My internet "food print" is me to a T!!!! I wear my personality on my sleeve.. it's all there- it's all me... but there's also so much more to me in person, too.. I've met most of my Paris friends and others in the area from blogging.. My first two "friends" in Paris were people I met on Myspace before FB was around...

Oh... and Mir-- you DO have some interesting personality traits... It's what makes you YOU.. gotta love it, right? And, you're anything BUT stupid --- You're VERY smart and I really admire your intelligence and knowledge!!! You ROCK!!!
And we all have our own little "quirks" even if it doesn't show up on the net.... when we all meet in person, we get to know each other better!!
Take care and have a good rest of your Sunday!

Leesa said...

Mira -- I used to use ICQ and it had some weird bug so I got rid of it and then came along MSN and Yahoo messenger.. Whew... I liked the logo for ICQ b/c it was a Mexican sunflower.. Cool, huh?

au soleil levant said...

Leesa - Another ICQ user! You definitely come off as fabulous on your blog as you are in person! There's still a lot to learn about you face to face, but the essentials are there online. Like the fact that you're a great traveler and partner in crim ice cream eater :) I have "interesting" personality traits?!? Like my extreme love for Rick Steves, playing the ultra nerdy tour guide, and looking at the menu of every single restaurant in a 10 block radius before deciding where to eat? Those can all be pretty obnoxious. I think I've gotten too used to being on my own over the past several years and out of the habit of compromising with others, so I don't always recognize the point where I should step back and say "okay, someone else can decide now, it doesn't always have to be about me." I should work on that.

Leesa said...

Hahah... Mira... You're too funny with your traits... I can remember you reading the Rick Steve's book on the train from Vienna to Strasbourg and then getting off that train - with you knowing to say NO to the scam taxi drivers - TACKSI - hahaha!!! And then you and I trying to find the metro entrance and asking people and it was right there.. hehehe!!! Gosh!! We had some funny and great adventures...
I think finding all of the great places to eat - Coffee Time in Vienna/The Indian place in Salzburg/and Indian Pavillion in the Nascht Markt... and then the hotel in Budapest's FABULOUS breakfast and coffee... I have to go back for that...
It was such a FABULOUS trip... I'm sure I had some weird traits-- getting up at the crack of dawn and going downstairs to blog, for one!!!
I'm glad you were the one into the history and such, b/c it gave me a chance to learn something... I really have to do that more often...
You're a fun person to travel with and I think we did okay!!!
Looking forward to our next trip together (how about Turkey and Transylvannia)?
Take care and have a great week...
P.S. Thanks for your kind words about me.. I can only be a bitch when people (usually Parisians) rub me the wrong way...
PPS... word verification here : conesse
That's ALMOST a bad word in French "connasse!"

au soleil levant said...

Remember Cafe Anna in Budapest and the noodle ice cream? And how they put out blankets in the outdoor seating areas? That is such a great idea, they should do that in France too. Oh, and the cafe in Vienna that you had been to the last time you were there that we found? It actually worked out perfectly that you wanted to get up early and do your computer stuff because that way I could sleep in and get ready while you did that and we were both ready to head out the door at the same time! I would love to go to Turkey and Transylvania! I also want to go to the Baltic countries, and Scnadinavia, and and and.... too many places to visit!

One time in my town I passed these two people who kept shouting "Conard!" and "Conasse!" back and forth at each other! No idea what the problem was!

Zhu said...

One day i'll take your picture. One day :-)

au soleil levant said...

Well, I do keep saying that I need to go visit Canada again ;)