Get Offline, Be Real

The internet and social networks are a huge part of modern life. I do not think that anybody can reasonably dispute that claim. There is a huge array of opinions regarding the positive and negative consequences of this internet dominance, but today, I want to address one of the most frequent arguments levied against too much internet/social media use.

Get offline and spend some time in the real world.

A few weeks ago, tech writer Erin Biba wrote an article for Wired about how online posting is not a way to build true connections with people. In her view, the constant editing, selective information sharing, and projection of an online persona make social media inherently dissimilar and irreconcilable with your offline persona. She questions the ability to have a genuine conversation online if everyone is being selective about the information they choose to share online.

To some extent, I agree with Biba, but her outright rejection of the validity of any online interaction is a hard pill to swallow. Well… sort of…

Ever tried to have a political debate on Facebook? It’s usually an epic failure. One comment about how Obama handled the debt ceiling crisis and suddenly people cannot  be stopped from writing responses 1, 2 or 3 comments long about the validity or stupidity of the particular statement at hand. Oftentimes, you end up seeing two people argue back and forth who either don’t know each other in person or would never talk to one another in person. It is difficult to look at these types of political debates and say that any true discussion occurred.

Does that make these interactions inferior to the equivalent real life interactions?

I still get involved in political discussions that are no more productive in person than they are online. Although the medium can obscure the message, it doesn’t necessarily elucidate it either.

In real life, people are just as guilty of curating the information they share to project a persona. Why else do people buy particular brands of clothing, cars, and electronics? Marketing psychology feeds into these inherent desires to put forward a persona. In this respect, our online behavior is no different than our offline behavior. Both online and offline elements comprise our individual identities.

That said, don’t assume you know me just because you read this blog. Get real. Figure me out in both places.

Tom Anderson’s (founder of MySpace) response to Biba on Google+

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Is your online persona different from your offline persona? Are you ‘real’ online? Let me know in the comments.


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