Who am I, really? An evolution of my online personas
It seems the world is moving towards more authentic online identities, rather than ones full of filters and highlight reels. This combination of unedited content and people being honest about their feelings has made me feel safe to include parts of the real me online. I have made an active effort of constructing a persona of being vulnerable and open about mental health while still portraying the fun parts of my personality.
On my social media accounts, I have posted about how I’ve felt through the pandemic, written blogs about how to address anxiety and shared things that helped me through tough times.
Looking at the #ALC708 study notes this week, I wanted to share a blog I wrote a while ago about addressing anxiety.— Helena_vdh (@HelenaVdh) November 30, 2021
It’s an authentic little piece of me and I think being vulnerable as part of my online identity is what helped and engaged people😀https://t.co/QamohRGyiy
Opening up about this online has become important to me as I want to help people who feel the same, but I do this in real life too. So, is it an online identity, or is it simply who I am?
Let’s look at my online personas to find out.
On Twitter, I mostly talk about studying and retweet quotes from my favourite thought leaders or authors, like Mark Manson, Simon Sinek or my favourite lecturer, Adam Brown. It’s here where my love for personal development comes out. The part of me that wants to be a leader, own my own business and change the world (haha).
When reading some study notes, this quote by @digitalzones stuck out. I loved it so much I wrote it on post it note on the wall in my office. I’ve realised this is something I try to actively do in my online personas when using social media now! #ALC708 #Evolution pic.twitter.com/g1jMJHC31Z— Helena_vdh (@HelenaVdh) December 13, 2021
My once quiet LinkedIn profile has slowly seen more activity where I am honest and vulnerable about mental health and share leadership content. I regularly re-post from Headspace and have shared light hearted blogs about feeling socially awkward in a post covid world.
My Instagram persona is the one closest to who I am offline. I post my fun side as well as pictures with captions about mental health and reaching goals, moving towards a more vulnerable online identity. Instagram feels like the platform I can not only be my truest self but where I can reach (and help) the most people who relate to me.
Comparing the evolution of these personas
When evaluating these online identities, I’ve wondered – if I am actively portraying certain characteristics, is it authentic or am I playing up those parts of who I believe myself to be? Am I ‘adding mayo’ to the story, as my partner would say?
Cho and Jimerson (2014:2) observed, Tweets are only 140 characters and profiles can be viewed by anyone, even without an account. People could read my tweets and I’d have no idea! Perhaps this is why my Twitter persona lacks the personal depth my other accounts have.
I’ve noticed myself gravitating to LinkedIn more and more, likely a symptom of seeing workplaces differently since the pandemic. As a way of showcasing my digital media and writing skills, I started sharing university assignments that happen to include content about mental health.
This evolved into me posting things like the below and receiving more engagement than I ever imagined. Since sharing these vulnerable and honest posts, I’ve received three job offers in two months! It seems incorporating parts of my offline identity into my LinkedIn identity, a platform that is often deemed merely professional, only worked in my favour.
As outlined by Smith and Watson (2014:79), social media can be used to create an online resume. Imagery, quotes and carefully worded text can demonstrate these elements of ‘you’ and your branded personality as one neat package. When analysing the evolution of my LinkedIn and Twitter profiles, it’s evident this is what I am attempting. I want potential employees to see my brand, and not only hire me but align with my values.
On Instagram, I post photos of live music, travelling, memes and fun with friends. I’ve recently included more vulnerable posts while maintaining a somewhat sarcastic tone, wedging bits of humour amongst topics that can be too serious and sometimes boring.
When reflecting on this mish mash of content, I concluded I form my Instagram persona this way because I want to show my fun side and my vulnerable anxious side. I want my followers to see you can be both full of good times and still speak about ‘deep’ things.
As Smith and Watson observed (2014:75), different online platforms are easy ways for users to construct and experiment with different personas, providing endless opportunities to create ‘real’ versions of themselves for the world to see.
I must admit, this is something I am doing with my accounts, although I still believe each one contains different elements of who I truly am. I’ll leave you with this quote, that perhaps sums up a fantastic way to look at authentic online identities.
Cho, V and Jimerson, J B (2016) ‘Managing digital identity on Twitter: The case of school administrators’, Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 2017;45(5):884-900, doi:10.1177/1741143216659295
Smith, S and Watson, J 2014, ‘Virtually Me: A Toolbox about Online Self-Presentation’, in Poletti, A and Rak, J (eds.), Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, pp. 70-95.