Friday, July 10, 2009

Authentic Online Personalities

Okay, I'm going in deep again today. I know it's Friday and some of you might not be able to handle it, but take a big swig of your favorite beverage (Ginger ale for me) and you'll be fine.

Online Personalities. Yes, capitalized. The question is coming at the beginning of this post. Here it is: Are you yourself online?

A couple of days ago, I met up with Suzy, Michelle, (me) Tess and Natalie. That's me in with the red flower in my hair, so you can match faces with names.

I've been reading most of their blogs for a while now. I've met Suz lots of times; we go way back. But I was nervous to meet the others. Why? you might ask. Because you never really know if someone is who they say they are when you only know them online.

Let me say that again: You never really know if someone is who they say they are when you only know them online.

You know this is true. Think of all the Dateline's you seen about child predators. Why would we think because we're authors and bloggers that it's any different? It's not. Some people put out personal information about themselves and their family. You might feel like you know them.

You don't.

So rewind. I was nervous, and I was late because my girl kidlet had tumbling class. When I got there, the party was in full swing. And I was thrilled to report that each and every one of them ARE who they seem to be online. So I relaxed and had a good time. I hope they did too!

So I want you to think about the "you" you're putting out there.

What would people be able to say about you? Are you being your authentic self online? Do you think it's important to be able to "trust" your online friends?

I totally do.

In fact, I participate in online critique groups with people I've never met. And I've learned that these kinds of groups don't form overnight, because you never really know a person until you've given them a few months to prove consistent and trustworthy behavior.

What do you think? Am I way off-base here? What's the status of your online friendships? How fast did they develop? Do you trust those people you've never met?

Here's the question of the day again: Are you yourself online? If someone met you in real life, would they be able to say, "You're exactly like how you write on your blog!"

I hope people can say that about me. (Suz, Tess, Michelle, Natalie?) I aim to be myself in any and every situation.


Scott said...

What you see, is what you get . . .

Yeah, it's me online. I'm snarky. I drink margaritas - only on Fridays though, the rest of the week is red one (one glass only). So now, I'm not a raging margarita drinker. Sorry to disappoint! : )

I really think that, for the most part, my blog reflects who I am as a person. That might be a good thing, and that might be a bad thing.

Now, does my blog show every endearing quality I have? Of course not, that'd be almost impossible to do. Still, I think "I" shine through - hopefully - in a good way, on my blogs and thorugh my comments.


Rebecca L Sutton said...

Great post. I can't speak for anyone else but I sure as heck do my best to be me while staying professional. So sometimes I do bite my tongue (or finger?) and stop myself from typing certain things that I wouldn't want an agent to see. I save that for email! Besides that I really am this optimistic about life and my journey to publication. ; )

I totally trust each and every one I've met that I've clicked with. It's funny because in a way they know a side of me my own family and friends don't know because they SO don't get the whole writing thing.

The cool thing is that I've gotten to know some writing buddies on a personal level so I really feel like they are friends though we've never met. I'm still very jealous of that fact that you ladies got to hang out!

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Yes, you really ARE who you are online, Elana! Only I must say that you are better, too!

I think we really do have to be careful, and it does take a lot of time to really get to know people we meet online. Chatting is usually what seals the deal for me. I love chatting (although you always seem way too busy, haha)

I had so much fun meeting you! So glad we could get together, and I hope we can do it again soon. I'm interested to see what others say here.

Unknown said...

I like to think I'm pretty close to who I am in real life. I actually have 3 blogs to cover the three main parts of me. Funny chick, writer, and occasional over thinker. They all give a pretty good picture of who I am, although I prefer the Funny Chick and Writer portion the best ;)

Robyn Campbell said...

Man, Beth and I need more ladies in our posse! :)Any western NC writers here? Show of clicks please.

It sounds like you all had a day to loosen up and get to REALLY know each other. I'm the same--wickedly crazy. In person or online. :)

BTW, you all our exquisite. :)

Katie Salidas said...

I think I am, "me" both online and off. I know what you mean though, I've met a few "online friends" and they were a bit different than what I had expected. I think people are more, free, online. You can get away with more because of the perceived anonymity that the internet gives you.

Unknown said...

Being relatively new to this.... I found that I met both kinds of people, those I felt I could trust, and those I felt I could not. Instinct works online too... I firmly believe it. Nice Post Elena... I hope I can meet all of you someday... CT anyone?!!!!!

Casey Something said...

This is something I worry about to some degree. I can confidently say I AM myself online. But... I'm also very introverted and shy around strangers. It's hard to get the me you see on my blog to come out. It takes awhile for me to loosen up, basically. So I'm worried if I meet some of you fabulous online personalities you'd find me totally boring and awkward at first!

That said, I trust my CP completely and I'd LOVE to meet her in person.

Anonymous said...

I did a post about this a while back. In additiona to the authenticity thing, I think it has to do with how people communicate - when you are online, there is a whole aspect of communication that is lost (the nonverbal part). In real life, we use that part to help determine what we think about the people we meet. Now, that can be a good thing or a bad thing...

Online, we don't have that. It is easier to misconstrue what people say at times. But we are also afforded an opportunity to know people in a different way.

I hope that I am who I am in all situations - I certain strive for that.

And I CAN'T wait to meet you one day!!!

B.J. Anderson said...

I've made so many friends online! I hope they are who they say they are. And I hope I am! I don't put very much personal stuff on my blog, but I put enough to give a flavor of who I am. And I worry about the same things, Elana. Sometimes you can't be too careful!

Windy said...

What a great topic! I definitely suffer from a bit of the Dateline-instilled paranoia about some of those people I've "met" online, but I've also met some awesome people!

And to Christine's point, the loss of verbal communication and body language is just something that has made me think more about what I'm writing about and how it may be perceived. I try hard to be the same ME online as I am in real life, but there is definitely a level of work there I didn't realize when I first joined the online writing community.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Well...I do have the ugly side that I try to hide from the world but somehow my family gets to view it now and then. But other than that, I think it's me online.

This is a great question. I'm going to have to ponder this a little longer. Thanks for getting the cogs spinning again!

Rebecca Knight said...

This is a great topic! :P

I think I'm the opposite of what Quixotic says. I'm actually a more reserved, professional version of myself online, but still myself. I've always been really cautious when it comes to meeting people online because you're no longer anonymous once you put your name and face out there. I want to put my best foot forward.

I really am who I am from the blog. Just less professional and with occasional profanity ;). Heheheheh.

~Jamie said...

My crit buddy has already posted... whew... she didn't say anything about me HAHA!

This is a REALLY good question for a couple of reasons... there are things you can't say online- and that's important. We see that bite people in the butt all the time. It's important to realize that, although you might say one thing- because it's online it might be taken completely different.

On the other hand- if you aren't genuinely yourself, people are going to see you for the phony you are. It might just take a little longer online than in real life. So I think it's very important to be yourself.

klawellin said...

I am who I say I am!!! But...I totally agree...You just NEVER KNOW!!! Great Post!

I am following from the Friday Follow...on When We Listen. ; )


Jamie D. said...

Great post - sounds like you had a lot of fun! :-)

I think my online self is my "true" self - the one that family and friends know just because I'm comfortable with them and have known them for years. Unfortunately, I'm extremely nervous around people I haven't met in person before. That means I'd probably not act much like myself when meeting online friends in person for the first time, just due to nerves and my introverted nature. I'd be more reserved initially, which might come across badly.

So yeah, who I am online is pretty much who I am offline, but I'm not sure I'm very good at that first "in person" meeting.

Steph said...

LOVE the flower, and the post. I think I am the same person at the core, but I am more reserved in person upon first meeting people than I would present online. I think that is true with a lot of people. Also, "writerly" wise, I am far less confident talking about my writing, or giving critiques in person than I am say on querytracker or something...

Deb said...

I think the online me is close to the real life me. How would I be perceived in real life? That would depend on the individual. I interact with people in different ways and on different levels. Don’t we all? Think of it this way—the phone rings—the caller asks you what you’re up to today. Would you give every person who asked that question the same answer?

XiXi said...

I am one-hundred percent myself online. What is the point of pretending to be someone else on such an anonymous network? It makes no sense to me.

Plus, I like myself (that sounds so self-centered).

That picture is cute! I think it would be cool if one day I could meet some blogger friends, but everyone lives so far away. Also, I am a baby compared to everybody else (age-wise).

Kathryn Hupp-Harris said...

Great topic, Elana.

I think my online presence is probably a more genuine indicator of who I am.

I get nervous when my mouth has to form words in a small-group setting. So, I have this huge tendency to stay back and be quiet, which is often misinterpretted as being snobbish.

But I'm not really snobby. Really.


Tess said...

It was so interesting to have this discussion at our luncheon. Honestly, I had never considered the fact that people might not be who they portray online. Too trusting, I guess.

But, you are's important to pay attention and be a little careful, especially when it comes to sharing your creative work with others.

And, for the record, you are awesome! Genuine, down to earth, funny and so creative. Just like on your blog :)

Rachael said...

I trust most of the people I know online. The ones I've been talking to for weeks and think I really do know.

I'm mostly myself online. I'm not as sarcastic and I watch what I say online a lot more than I do in real life. Because online you can't tell when someone's joking and I don't want anyone to take anything I say the wrong way. :)

lisa and laura said...

This is such an interesting discussion because you really just never know.

As for Laura and I we're probably a little too honest for our own good. We are EXACTLY who we portray on-line. I've had friends say that reading our blog is like talking to me on the phone. Not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing...

Suzette Saxton said...

On the drive to Tess's house with Michelle I made the comment, "You'll love Elana. She's exactly like she is online." Tis true! And that is why you are one of my favorite people. How lucky I am to live reasonably close!

Next get-together is at my house, everyone.

J.B. Chicoine said...

I'm not one for pretense in any arena, but I am far more articulate online.

Katie Anderson said...

I must say, I have thought about this, but I literally ADORE my online friends. And generally, when I meet them in person, they are just as cute!

You are so lucky to have gotten to hang out in person with your bloggy friends. I would love that.

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