Are your Internet friends who they say?

18 Feb

If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.  ~ Mark Twain

There’s a warm, fuzzy feeling I get when research backs up what I already knew.

Over on PsyBlog, the latest news is a recent study showing that “overall people were remarkably honest in representing themselves” on social networking sites (i.e. Facebook). I’d like to see the study repeated over a larger, more diverse population sample (the researchers used only 236 US and German students), but I’m gratified to have another piece of artillery to use against the naysayers who assume everyone on the Internet is lying about who they really are. Because there are some who think that I’m nuts.

See, it’s safe to say that just about everyone I currently know (other than my family, of course) is someone I met online. Some of these people are my dearest, closest friends – even though some of those I’ve never met in person or only seen a couple of times. (Come to that, there are some members of my extended family I’ve never met or met rarely, but interact with online.) Across the board, the ones I have met in person have aligned precisely with their presented online persona.

But even when I tell people how consistently positive my experiences with online friends have been, the listener still at times seems shocked that I so readily trust and grow close to these online buds. Hopefully this new study will shed some light on it: you actually can really get to know people without “properly” meeting them.

Of course, this isn’t to say that one shouldn’t still be careful. As with any community, the Internet barrel has its share of bad apples. Don’t hand out all your intimate details to others. If you’re going to meet an online friend out in the Real World, use sensible precautions: meet in a public place, bring a friend with you. Etc. I have met a couple of people whose presented Real World identities matched their online personae and who still eventually turned out to be misrepresenting themselves… any guesses why we’re no longer friends?

And there lies a big part of the reason why I don’t wear a mask whilst safely tucked behind the anonymity of the Internet: it’s exhausting and the truth, as they say, will eventually out. Anywhere you meet me online, I’m going to have the same username (assuming it’s available) and the same personality, for a few simple reasons:

  1. Why would I lie? Being myself is too much fun. And if you really can’t stand me as myself, I want no truck with you, anyway.
  2. I have enough going on in my life without having to log in to a given site and think, “Okay, who was I here, again?”
  3. If we really hit it off, we might want to meet in person one day. And then I’d have some ‘splainin’ to do. Who needs the aggravation?

So if we ever do meet in person, you might know me immediately, even if you’ve never seen my photo. Yeah, I really am this insane and geeky out here in the Real World. Fun, innit?

(Speaking of geeky: The number of this post is 42. Heh.)

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8 Responses to “Are your Internet friends who they say?”

  1. Luigi B. 22 February 2010 at 15:39 #

    I see it more like, the person you are online is not really the real you. It’s more like an avatar of who you want to be and how you want to be seen. For example, on Facebook I only post flattering pictures of myself, I only update my status to things I want people to see, I keep the private ugly things hidden.

    Of course, who is to say that this is any different than who I am in person. When I go out or meet with my friends I dress up and try to look nice and when I tell them stories I leave the details I don’t want them to know out.

    Ultimately we all wear a mask in front of people but that doesn’t mean it’s not who we are, it’s a part of that.

    • ButMadNNW 22 February 2010 at 17:14 #

      Hmm, some definite food for thought there, Luigi. 🙂 What you say about “when I go out or meet with my friends…”, that’s my thing about people giving out all their personal info to people online – you wouldn’t give all your personal info to someone you just met in-line at the bank, so why would you do it online?

      So yeah, I agree with a lot of what you say. It’s not that people completely lie online or are completely truthful, but that their “mask” matches the one they normally wear.

  2. Sarah 23 February 2010 at 10:26 #

    I agree completely. I do think that this fear of internet weirdos is a cultural thing – kinda like the fear of strangers instilled in children. It’s completely irrational – I have met up with quite a few people I first encountered on the internet and they were exactly as expected. I didn’t always like them all (but then again I didn’t necessarily like them online) – I think it can be harder to hide your true self if you can only portray yourself using words.

    Then again, at the same time, I can be a different style of Sarah depending on whether I am writing on a politics site or with my friends on FB or for a journal or commenting on this blog. The substance is still the same though 🙂

    • ButMadNNW 23 February 2010 at 11:46 #

      Oh, absolutely. You’ll see a different ButMad arguing over equality than you’ll see just being a plain goof on Facebook. 😉 But those are just facets of my overall personality.

  3. friendlysolarflare 24 February 2010 at 12:46 #

    “Yeah, I really am this insane and geeky out here in the Real World.”

    And that’s why we love you 🙂

    I’ve also only had positive experiences meeting online friends IRL.

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