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HindustanTimes Thu,28 Aug 2014
# Is that really you?
Nidhi Thakur, Hindustan Times
February 03, 2013
First Published: 12:29 IST(3/2/2013)
Last Updated: 12:42 IST(3/2/2013)

A diva on Facebook and a bore in real life? Ever wondered why?

TOPIC: Online identity vs offline identity

It is really ironic that the moment I read this topic in  Brunch, I didn’t turn to the 50 people sitting around me at work. Instead, I logged onto my Twitter account and posted a tweet asking a bunch of strangers for their valuable inputs and bounced ideas and theories off them. What is funny is that discussing it with people didn’t even occur to me. Also, before posting the tweet, I didn’t spend a second to decide whether I agreed with the viewpoint or not. But the response I received just endorsed my subconscious decision.

NidhiToday we live in an age where a city-wide distance from our loved ones doesn’t hurt us as much as the detachment we feel when we charge our phone and it’s inaccessible. So important has virtual acceptance become, that we do not realise how and when it takes over our real existence.

If you do not agree with me, sit back and think: when was the last time you posted something on Facebook or Twitter without trying to make it sound funny or intelligent? I’m pretty sure you can’t recall any such instance. And why would you do that? For a few likes and re-tweets, of course! Now, miraculously, if you can think of one, then you’re not as addicted to the Internet as the others, and you should hide before they come looking for you, mate!

If you have been on the Web from the golden era of Orkut, you already know the multiple personalities people have on it. Ask anyone who proactively meets people from the Web and they will tell you that the guys with the word ‘joy’ in their Twitter handle are often the ones who sit glum in one corner at a tweet-up. The biggest mischief-makers on the Web are mostly at a loss of words and can’t even hold a basic conversation. That is how forced and fake virtual profiles are. As social networking sites evolved, so did our personalities – from the flirtatious Orkutiyas to the classy Facebookers, to the intellectual Tweeple. But throughout this virtual evolution, one thing has remained constant – forced identities. Let’s just look at my various online identities - ‘Mrs Chulbul Pandey’, a rather charming ‘Laal Firangi’ or the lovable ‘Ghaati Dancer’ – the fact is that we all create our virtual personalities with some tasteful uniqueness and that, my friend, testifies to our desire to be accepted online.

Having an account on a social networking site makes you feel as if you are on an island far away from the prying eyes of your family and you can behave like the person you have always wanted to be – say whatever you wish to say, make friends with whoever you want and then defriend them at the click of a button. This liberty of making and breaking relationships without the slightest discomfort is what we crave for in real life. And online, it is available for free.

The perfect example for this would be the controversial tweet [“Ek do din late gaye ghar! Woh bhi besharam ki tarah gaye... Bye bye Pakistan”] by Indian batsman Suresh Raina. Even though he blamed it on his nephew, it seemed pretty obvious that the tweet was an impulsive reaction by Raina, the human being, and not Raina, the cricketer.

dramaAs in Raina’s case, it seems that what people portray online could be the ‘real’ them, while the way they behave in reality is a result of many ifs and buts, and social norms. The reason being, the way you behave when you are least afraid of being judged is what you truly are. Slowly, without noticing, the gap between the two personalities reduces and after some time, they merge into one. What you are in reality reflects in your virtual behaviour and your virtual personality starts empowering the real you!

As much as I believe that virtual personalities help us immensely, a line must be drawn. Technology can blind us and force us to believe in a reality that doesn’t exist. Don’t get me wrong, this is not about rejecting technology. I love the Internet and it is impossible to take my BlackBerry away from me. This is just about being logical and knowing that all that glitters is not gold. It’s about using technology and not letting technology use you. It’s about building conversations and not mere virtual  connections.

Know the Writer
Name: Nidhi, 22
Occupation: PR professional
How is your real identity different from your online identity? It’s very different! I’m more direct on Twitter, saying things I wouldn’t say otherwise
The best cover story in Brunch? The one about shopping!
Tell us a quirk you have: In my head, I’m married to Salman Khan!
For how long have you been reading Brunch? One year

From HT Brunch, February 3

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