Creating A Better Version Of Yourself On The Internet

When I was in high school, my friends and I used to have days where we would take our polaroid cameras to the hills of Ojai and snap pictures of us playing in the grass and in nature and in creeks and on swingsets. Our whole day would be dedicated to this and then we would put the pictures online and wait for people to comment on the pictures saying, “OMG, so cute. so cool. looks like fun!” It was fun in the sense that we were taking cute pictures of ourselves that could potentially be our new default picture. In my senior year of high school, we didn’t actually have Facebook or Twitter but we had Myspace, which was good enough to be our virtual playground.

When I look back at pictures of myself and my friends in high school, I look at fun albeit somewhat choreographed moments. With the internet, we were able to cultivate a certain image of ourselves. Bros post pictures of themselves shirtless in front of a beer pong table. We posted twee polaroids of ourselves flying kites and getting drunk off champagne. Same diff.

That’s what I’ve always found interesting and creepy about the internet—the fact that you could create this perfect cool version of yourself. It wouldn’t be a complete lie; it would just be an exaggeration. If someone saw pictures of me as a teenager, they would think that my friends and I got drunk at a lot of cool parties and rode bikes and painted and hung out in front of beautiful trees all of the time looking precious. To a certain extent, that was true, but a lot of stuff was purposely left out. If we didn’t want someone to know something about our lives, we could leave it out. No pictures, no blogging: NEVER HAPPENED.

My friends and I might’ve been extreme in going to the lengths of having embarrassing hipster photo shoots for the sole purpose of posting them online, but the reality is that everyone likes to cultivate a certain image of themselves online. We post certain pictures to our Facebook that will make us look good and leave the gross ones out. We get rid of our activity on our wall if we want to create a minimalist feel. Do we want our lives to feel clean or do we not mind exposing the chaos? The choice is ours. After all, we’re in control here. We get to cut the fat. It’s our life on the internet and we can take it wherever we want.

Even the people who are “bad on the internet” know what they’re doing when they’re posting pics of themselves drinking with their GURLS and skiing in Colorado! They’re satisfied with whatever image they’re giving off. Christians, bros, hippies, hipsters, and parents are all using social media to say something about themselves. This “something” is important, it’s what they deem most interesting about their personality.

People who are “better on the internet” than in real life find great comfort in having this control. Maybe they’re awkward and shy so the internet allows them to think before they put something out there. They can be who they’ve always wanted to be in real life. Haven’t you met someone offline and liked their internet persona better? You wondered to yourself, “How could someone be so cool on Twitter and yet be so dull in the flesh? False advertising!” Well, they do posses those qualities you liked online, they just don’t translate as well when put on the spot.

I believe people have always been image conscious but now with the internet, it has just been magnified. We’re given new opportunities to control our lives in this strange way. Obviously there shouldn’t be such a disconnect between the life you lead offline and the life you lead on the internet. However, there’s no shame in taking a picture of yourself looking cute in a meadow somewhere and thinking, “Damn, this is gonna be a good default pic.” TC mark

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.

Trace the scars life has left you. It will remind you that at one point, you fought for something. You believed.

“You are the only person who gets to decide if you are happy or not—do not put your happiness into the hands of other people. Do not make it contingent on their acceptance of you or their feelings for you. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if someone dislikes you or if someone doesn’t want to be with you. All that matters is that you are happy with the person you are becoming. All that matters is that you like yourself, that you are proud of what you are putting out into the world. You are in charge of your joy, of your worth. You get to be your own validation. Please don’t ever forget that.” — Bianca Sparacino

Excerpted from The Strength In Our Scars by Bianca Sparacino.

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  • Mr Shankly

    “People who are “better on the internet” than in real life find great comfort in having this control. Maybe they’re awkward and shy so the internet allows them to think before they put something out there. They can be who they’ve always wanted to be in real life. Haven’t you met someone offline and liked their internet persona better? You wondered to yourself, “How could someone so cool on Twitter and yet be so dull in the flesh? False advertising!” Well, they do posses those qualities you liked online, they just don’t translate as well when put on the spot.”

    Perfect.

    • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

      It’s fun creating a persona for yourself.  I can’t be the only person who enjoys a fictionalized, cooler version of myself.

  • FTW

    are you guys battling for “Who can depict this topic better than the other person” or something? lol… this is the 2nd or 3rd MAYBE 4th time this has been written about. It’s still good though don’t get me wrong. It’s just a really written about topic on thought catalog.

  • http://twitter.com/dcmjs Matt Stevenson

    Decent subject. We’ve all thought about it. “Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.”

  • http://twitter.com/ingenuegle Egle Makaraite

    I, personally, am cool wherever I go.

  • christine

    i like this ryan

  • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

    Actually, I’m rather uncool on the internet.  I just Googled my name and on the bottom of the first page is a video of me presenting my thesis in 3 minutes for a competition. 
    …I guess I’m this uncool in real life, so it’s an accurate reflection…

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001702321197 Sasha Jones

      obvs i had to google you and you seem “smart”

      • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

        I’m a good actor. 

    • EP

      Damn, a whole thesis in three minutes? Seriously jealous.

      • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

        The actual thesis was 112 pages and 26,000 words…and according to MS Word, my last draft took me 48 hours to edit….And yet now that my Master’s is done, I’m jobless.  The moral is don’t be jealous.  …I really don’t want to go back to teach high school…

    • Marvin McDougal Street

      yeah, I watched your thesis video too. My only problem with it was your weird pronunciation of “superiority.” Soopeeeryarrity.

      • Marvin McDougal Street

        Also, that work seems super important. YOU COULD BE ON TED!!!

      • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

        It is very important to me.  I never had any interest in fish or the immune system, but it’s become my child.

      • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

        They actually put up the first time I presented, which sucked.  I froze in front of the audience for 5 seconds, but they edited that out.  It was one of the most embarrassing moments of my graduate life. It comes right after I say, “So why is this important?”  They edited it out with a picture of my slide…everything from then on is ad libbed.  Uggh.  I nailed it the second time, though

      • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

        Plus, for a boy who’s lived around Boston his whole life, you’re lucky you’re getting an r’s.  So shut yaw face. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/nattusmith Natt Smith

    Awkward pauses, sharp wit, accidental brushing of skin… I choose this.   

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504951716 Tau Zaman

    I used to obsess over pictures of me at parties going up because I was indoctrinated with the cautionary mentality that employers these days will check your Facebook. Friends of mine even dropped their last names on Facebook and put their middle names instead, all in the hopes of hiding incriminating evidence.

    But I stopped worrying about all that crap. Because the truth is, if an employer is the kind of person who wants to pry into my personal/social life to see if I enjoy drinking or partying or having fun, and wouldn’t like it, then they’re not the kind of people I would want to be working for in the first place.

  • Fernando Estrella

    I feel its actually best to just… be who you are. As if you were going on a date. I hear all the time in Twitter about people who get mad at others because they have been tagged in pictures that they don’t look good on. I personally think I don’t look that good on any film or camera, and there’s not even that much content of me over the Internet, but seriously, at the end, this is who we are, and its not up to peoples comments or opinions on our pictures or activities to build who we want to be. Of course, its always good to have a little vision on who you want to be, and working towards that is really gratifying…

  • Loljame

    we are who we pretend to be, right?

  • erintx17

    there’s a postsecret entry this week that was made for this article (or vice versa)

    • Erintx17

      more accurately, seems* made for

    • Erintx17

      more accurately, seems* made for

  • Guest

    .. I want to see those photos, Ryan

  • KYLE

    the internet is for CREEPS!

  • Amy-face

    Why are the photos not featured? I feel as though I need to see them…

  • Jrein93

    Now I’m debating whether I’m better on the internet or in real-life.

  • http://www.candicepayne.com Candice

    Wait.

    Wait.

    Wait.

    This is a thing you can do?

    Create a better version of yourself on the internet!?

    I never got the memo!

    (I think it might be that I’ve been online longer than this has been possible, maybe, I guess. I wrote about going online in my diary when I was nine. Twenty years ago. Also… I guess nobody ever told me that I could create a better version of myself in my diary, either. Nerd much?)

  • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

    Being invisible on the internet is the new being Tila/ForbiddenXO/[insert other internet persona of note here].

    There’s something comforting about cultivating who you are via internet, regardless of if that’s the whole enchilada (rare) or the cool parts you think strangers could appreciate (DINGDINGDING!).

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