Scrolling through twitter this morning, I spotted a question posed by fellow blogger LJ Williams: “Why do we make our online selves seem so perfect?”
The answer to that is simple: we aren’t perfect; the internet is a place where we can think and edit before we put ourselves where others can see. We can control the awkward pauses and the blemishes and the dorky laugh and only present what we wish others would see in real life: a cool, hilarious person who’s fun to be with. As Abby Howard once said on Strip Search: “I don’t want the internet to think I’m an idiot.”
There are people who don’t mind what the internet thinks. They are the people who tweet when they’re tired, rant on facebook when they’re angry, or post nothing on their blog but derogatory comments about their co-workers, friends, and family.
Though the internet is a place where we are able to put forward the best things about ourselves, it doesn’t mean that we should go overboard with it. Otherwise, when you meet an internet friend in real life, they are going to look at you and say, “why aren’t you as awesome as you were online?”
By all means, think about how to make that reply better before you post it. But don’t mistake my meaning; I’m not advocating “Keeping up with the Joneses” style internet use. It doesn’t do anyone any good to brag about your personal life if you aren’t really happy. And the only person you’re gratifying by taking a selfie on the balcony of your hotel in Cancun (with the tagline “don’t you wish you were here?”) is yourself.
It’s okay to be real online. But it seems to me that we focus too often on the negative things in life. My policy is that if you don’t have anything nice (or uplifting, or positive) to say, then you shouldn’t say anything at all. If you must respond to someone rude, make it as polite as possible.
Everyone has triumphs and defeats, good days and bad days, ups and downs. It’s your choice how and when to share those things with the internet, and how to respond to people who choose to respond or interact negatively.
You’re not helping anyone by when you have a bad day and decide to spew your hatred all over the internet. You can be positive online and still be true to yourself. The internet won't think you're an idiot.