Social Media: Snippets of You?

by Briana Campbell (@MsMatchGirl)

You’re out there. Online. You’re on Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn. You’re sharing photos with Instagram and leaving dry cleaner reviews on Yelp. Yep. You’re out there.

But is is really you?

In a recent Wired magazine article, Erin Biba posited:

Every time you post something on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or Instagram, you’re influencing—or trying to influence—how the world views you. Each carefully crafted 140-character message that goes out into the metaverse fills a publicly accessible database that defines you to people you’ve never met. In the end, it isn’t who you really are. It’s the hilarious, adorable, fascinating, intelligent, so-worth-Friending version of you. Social media isn’t about having a conversation with people you know. It’s about advertising yourself. It’s not social; it’s media.

“It’s not social; it’s media.”

There are a lot of comments on the article, deriding her point of view. There are people calling her out for being a tech insider and for being insecure. I don’t know Erin, so I don’t know if she’s insecure or not. She works for Wired, so I’m betting she is a tech insider. While I agree with a lot of what these commenters have to say, I don’t think I can get fully on board with their opinion. But I can’t agree completely with Biba’s either.

The great thing about social media platforms is that they are amazing tools (and that’s what they are, they are tools) for sharing. They are great tools for putting your best foot forward. Which, let’s be real, is what we all want to do when interacting with others anyway.

Ms. Biba closes her post with the following:

But no matter how you slice it, a social network is a public place. And posting there is like choosing what T-shirt to wear or how to cut your hair: It’s another way to control how the world sees you. You are not your Facebook page or your Twitter feed. They’re just snippets of you. And no one ever had a real, honest conversation with a snippet.

And this is where, I think, my biggest problem with the article lies. In the final conclusion that a person’s social media profile is entirely different than the one they put forward in person, because that profile is just a snippet of the person. When it comes to interacting in real life (IRL), most people only put a snippet of themselves forward. At work, are you the same guy you are as when you’re playing Thomas the Tank Engine with your kids? At a networking event, do you put out the same vibe you do as when you’re at brunch with your best friends? When you’re on a first date, do you share everything you would share with your oldest girlfriend?

No. You don’t.

I use different social platforms for different things. Twitter is public, so anyone can see it and I know what I’m putting out there can be seen by anyone from complete strangers to coworkers to close friends to clients. My Facebook page is reserved for only people I’ve met in real life and have interacted with socially. My LinkedIn page is filled with people I’ve worked with or met at conferences or might work with one day. My Google+ circles are a mix of friends and other social media nerds. And, when I was a single girl, my online dating profile was a place I hoped to attract the “right” guy.

It goes to reason that I’d want to share different pieces of myself on different platforms. Each one is a bit of me. Each bit is the truth. It’s simply the manner of the reveal that’s different. When you first meet someone, online or IRL, you don’t share every bit of yourself with them. You let the whole you come out, little by little. Or, to use Ms. Biba’s term, one “snippet” at a time. I’ve, personally, had plenty of amazing conversations with the “snippets” of people I’ve met online and later went on to meet them in real life (something I addressed in this blog in June of last year).

As we go through the social world we’re always trying to make the best impression we can – whether it’s online or IRL. People, and brands, will always want to be perceived in the best possible light.

 

For more thoughts on whether social media is truly social, and Erin Biba’s Wired article, check out “First Friend” Tom Anderson‘s (yes, Myspace Tom) response on Google+.