Opinion: The projected face of the faceless

There will be some folks who may find it difficult to accept the saying that social media is about bringing people together — that it allows us to be “connected” and “in tune” with what happens across the world.

But to present an authentic self on these platforms has become rather fake. People can be considered to be narcissistic. We care only whether we are getting noticed enough or whether the “picture” we put up is worthy enough to procure likes and comments from people whom we may have only spoken to only once in our lifetimes.

Yet we all do it.

Essentially, what is happening is that we — as social users — project a faceless face. Most users will admit in “faking” parts of their online image in order to conform to social norms and expectations.

Everyone does it — profile tuning: intentionally sharing content to depict us as “users” in a false way which is considered to be excessive, attention seeking or somehow portrays that individual in a fake manner.

Social media constructs technically require individuals to be “real” in their sharing behavior — presenting oneself in the right way (whatever that may be), through sharing a necessitated element of the “ideal self.”

The question thus becomes whether we are presenting our “real self” or a hyper-idealistic version of ourselves?

In considering these points, I encourage you think of these factors while social networking:

Stop comparing yourself to others. When you compare yourself to others, you are comparing yourself to the perception of who you think the person is. In reality, many people are presenting only their ideal selves online, therefore you are comparing yourself to an ideal figure, not their true representation.

Authenticity is key. Instead of creating an inflated, unrealistic version of yourself; examine who you are and your best attributes. Determine what makes you unique and ask yourself: “Would you rather have 100 carbon copy replicas of you, or one authentic version of yourself?” People like individuals who are relatable, unique and real.

Align your “real self” with your “ideal” self. If you are portraying yourself as having an ideal figure, career or dream — why not work toward those goals to achieve your ideal status?

People all around will tell you to “be yourself,” but what they really mean is “be yourself … within these given parameters of what is comfortable for me.” When you commit to being authentic to yourself, you have to be OK with that “negative” story of you and feel enough peace with your own story to withstand that.

When you commit to being authentic to yourself, whether that be speaking your mind, or writing a blog (such as this one), you are committing to gains and losses. People may not like you. We paint “being yourself” as a noble endeavor, without also recognizing that sometimes people are not going to like what that may mean.

When you commit to being authentic to yourself, you have to believe that speaking your truth is going to outweigh the discomfort and pain of people disagreeing with you and disliking what you do or say. But it’s rather limiting to believe we have to stay away from upsetting people — alternative viewpoints are how we grow and change and evolve. It’s how we get new ideas we’ve never considered, even if they are uncomfortable.

To commit to being yourself in your fullest capacity can feel lonely. Because you’re not adapting to what other people want or expect of you, it may feel like you are disconnected from people you’re usually connected to. And that takes a lot of strength to push through. But know that your strength may open the doors for other people to do the same.

We have a lot of fears around being fully ourselves. Between not being liked and upsetting those we love, underneath it is feeling like “I am not enough, I am not worthy …” Somehow, amidst all of this, we have to fiercely love and trust ourselves to be able to show up in our fullest capacity, regardless of some of the losses. Because somehow, wedged between all of this, we have come to believe it will be worth it — despite the haters and dissenters.

And as we endeavor to be fully human and fully ourselves, we must also endeavor to make it as easy as possible for others to feel they too are human — fully themselves. And how do we do that? Turn all these things I just said on their head:

When you are met with ideas or actions you initially dislike or are confused by, ask questions rather than express distaste. Ask about your friend’s intention, or what led them to this place — it opens up conversation and understanding rather than debate and defense.

Ask yourself where your reactions are coming from. Are you placing your own judgment and expectations on someone else? Is this more about you or about them?

Try to be with them on their journey. Let go of the need for someone’s choices to make sense to you.

Our entire lives might be spent figuring out who we are and who we want to be — and most importantly, endeavoring to live out who we want to be unapologetically. I am on that journey right now and yes, I admit, it’s not easy. I do second-guess and doubt myself all the time. What if people don’t like me? But what if I don’t myself? Will this be worth it?

I tell myself it’s all worth it in the end — it’s time to stop living in the shadow of what people want you to be and live in your own. Be consistent and transparent in who you are in both online and offline persona.

ILLUSTRATION BY ALEXX ELDER

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