A Teen Speaks: How Accurate Are Our Online Profiles?

My uncle uses online dating sites and us nieces are always the first to bombard him with questions, wanting all the juicy details. After his last date, the first thing he said was “she didn’t even look like her photo!” This made me think about all of our online profiles and how my uncle actually had a point (even if he is 33 going on 18). This is often the case when it comes to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and any other website that requires us to provide a profile or display picture. We choose a picture that reflects us in the best way possible. Even more than that, we choose to display only information that presents us in the way we want to be presented.

My uncle uses online dating sites and us nieces are always the first to bombard him with questions, wanting all the juicy details. After his last date, the first thing he said was “she didn’t even look like her photo!” This made me think about all of our online profiles and how my uncle actually had a point (even if he is 33 going on 18). This is often the case when it comes to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and any other website that requires us to provide a profile or display picture. We choose a picture that reflects us in the best way possible. Even more than that, we choose to display only information that presents us in the way we want to be presented.

That’s the thing with any online profile, or any social networking account for that matter. We can almost compose the person that we want to be, or at least censor the content to show only the things we want to be shown, consequently impacting the image being presented. It is because of this that a certain question arises: are our social networking accounts an accurate representation of us as individuals or are they merely a tool used to conceal certain parts of ourselves and enhance others, “creating” the person we want to be seen as?

I tend to agree with the latter. No doubt there are certain elements of our profile that are true. Generally, we don’t lie about our names, what we like or where we went to school.  And birthdates as far as months and days go are usually correct, however it is not uncommon for people to use false years. And sure, the photos displayed on the profile are actually of that person. How could you miss the tilted head and subtle smile present in every single photo? An endless amount of photos taken with groups of laughing people in exotic places doing exciting things. After all, nobody wants to see what you actually do most Friday nights. Doing the laundry alone is so not appropriate material for Facebook. And I totally believe that it isn’t; I would not be impressed if one of my friends were to document every single tedious task of their lives. In fact, I still don’t know that I approve of posting photos of every meal or snack or drink consumed everyday. (I mean, #foodporn. Really?)

My point is that we select the content we want to display and those statuses that we write and the pages that we like with the understanding that everyone can view these things, consequently judging us, consciously or subconsciously.  People don’t put up statuses saying “today, I snapped at a colleague who was only trying to help” or “yesterday, I forgot to pick my child up from school” or “I lied to my family about the gathering this weekend. I don’t actually have to go to the dentist”, in the same way they wouldn’t post an unflattering photo of themselves, or a photo that was too plain. An image in front of the Eiffel Tower would win over a make-up free selfie in the lounge room any day. Just like we’d post a status tagging all of our friends at a cocktail bar, but would keep it quiet if we were snuggled on the couch alone with a tub of ice cream (unless of course, you’re twelve years old, in which case it would be along the lines of “home bored, who wants to chat?”) The fact of the matter is that we choose the material we display and that which we don’t even if we don’t realize it. There’s a reason why everyone says if you want an accurate photo of someone, look at the tagged images, not the self-posted ones.