We Are Who We Pretend To Be Online

I’m having an online identity crisis.

I don’t like who I am — don’t even know who I am on here. I used to, but as profiles change, so do I and I’ve gotten lost in it all.

I’m not even sure who I’m even supposed to be as my ego battles between URL and IRL. An online depression.

My username, @samomaryleona is not me. The photos and posts, thoughts, and rants are mine, but she is not me. The intricacy of me.

Why then, do I inject more time and energy maintaining the cyborg version of myself than to my own daily existence? I’ve yet to make breakfast, but I’ve already checked my email, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook twice for the messages I received while I was asleep. I’ve responded and sent out a few posts of my own.

I have an image to keep up, a disposition to maintain, trading in my personality for a brand. Because what I show you is not a fair representation of who I am. So one dimensional. So strategic. So promotional. In hopes of controlling your elucidation of me. That I am somebody to know, to follow, to admire. But you see @samomaryleona, not me.

I’ve never quite shown you my depth. The flawed, emotional, vulnerable, driven, complex mess of a human that I am. Because I don’t know you, really know you. And I don’t trust you. Because I recognize that you’re doing the same, controlling the same, building an illusion of your own existence just like me. Publicists of ourselves, only presenting what we want the other to see. Like the cyber pandemic and whether we admit it or not, we are all catfish.

I post what you want me to post. What I know will grant me likes, follows, commentary, and compliments, because I feed off it. I need it. And so do you.

We shouldn’t have the power to mask ourselves so easily, to be in control of our own reflection, adding filters to our lives. Because as with every power humans are given, we abuse it. And we’ve begun to live our narcissistic deceptions, manipulating each other and ourselves into believing that we are who we say we are. But there is a disconnect between that and the person we are when we log off — if we ever do.

From the moment my parents bought our family’s first computer when I was in the fourth grade, reality transformed. Days spent in the crisp rural air was replaced with hours glued to pixilated screens. And since then, it’s been an ongoing rat-race to build my identity and coexist in each new cybernetic world invented with the hopes of transforming the definition of self into nothing but virtual matter.

ICQ, chat rooms, MSN, Hotmail, Myspace, Gmail, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Vine. My identities changed and evolved with the mediums. From frecklegirl89 to shes_samo to @samomaryleona. I grew up with the internet and it’s documented me over the past decade and a half through my social life and career, collecting every person I’ve ever come across in my 25 years, from classmates I met in kindergarten who I haven’t seen in 15 years to my childhood camp friends to drunken acquaintances I met at a party when I was 18, organizing them all in one simulated space. I don’t talk to them. I don’t even ‘like’ their posts or photos but they’re there. A reminder that they’re real, that my memories are real. Piecing together the timeline of my life.

My entire adolescence and early adulthood has been posted online. From my first drunken binge in grade nine, high school cyber-bullying scandals, my first cheating boyfriend in college — it’s all there in angst-filled statuses and blurry pixilated flip-phone photos like a virtual time capsule. All you have to do is Google and scroll.

It used to be fine. Fun. Easy, something to pass the time but today, it’s evolved into more than a medium – it’s a new lifetime. It’s where I spend half of my waking hours. It’s where I keep in contact with my network, make my money and learn about what’s happening around the globe outside of my 15 inch screen. But for me and for many, this is the world that matters more. It’s consumed me.

We aren’t using these sites to document our lives anymore, we are living solely for content to post on them, throwing the scales of precedence off-balance. We do it for the ‘gram.

We’ve become so lost inside of our profiles that we’re emotionally stunted by their limitations, inhibited by 140 characters and 512×512 Instagram pixels as I try to impress you with fake importance that adds no real depth or difference to anything. The same memes, witty banter and comedic reactions to present-day issues are recycled and the shelf-life of anything worthy of attention is over with a scroll. Because there is no substance.

Growing up and getting to know one’s self has been a difficult concept for humans to grasp for generations, but the feat is next to impossible when there are two of us to know, our online selves and our humanity, which in many cases, contradict each other.

We are building a society of multiple-personality disorders and we’re all living double lives. It is defining our sense of reality, our sense of ego, our sense of purpose. My worth is seemingly dictated by numbers like a human stock market. Likes, followers, friends. But no matter how high my stock rises, I’m unfulfilled.

Because @samomaryleona is so demanding. Her constant need to be tended to and entertained takes up so much of my time and I get nothing of substance back in return. She is replaceable, because there is always another conversation, another scandal, another article to post about and 1.8 billion social media users to do it. She fights too hard to remain relevant along with the other 1.8 billion who are virtually screaming at the top of their lungs to be seen and heard as the revolving merry-go-round of content, opinion and vanity continues to spin.

But the moment I stop thinking as her and log off, the anxiety of missing out creeps behind my neck, pricking me with the sense that I’m missing something. Addicted to the scroll, because no muscle in my body is more exercised than my fingers and thumbs. Hours of typing, scrolling and searching. Time. Wasted time. Staring at mindless banter, status updates and endless posts until my mind is numb from the screen’s glare. But it is killing more than my time. It’s killing me. But I can’t miss anything. I can’t lose a follower. I can’t lose my relevance.

I’m having an online identity crisis. An online depression. And I need to find my character and add it to these characters or else my username will become me. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

featured image – Sólveig Zophoníasdóttir

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