Staff editorial: Don’t misrepresent yourself through social media

In the digital age, nearly everything is public. Politicians and celebrities are constantly being caught with scandalous photographs, emails, text messages or voicemails. There are very few people or public figures that do not have some sort of digital or online presence, and these are the rare exceptions. When Facebook had its earnings call on Jan. 30, it claimed to have 1.06 billion users. Twitter announced in December that it now has over 200 million monthly active users.

Anyone who is a user of these websites doesn’t just exist as a flesh and blood person anymore. As social media participants, we’ve created a separate, but related entity that is just as much a part of us as our bodies. It is one of the latest and most important examples of the axiom that “perception is reality.” Most regular users of Facebook have hundreds of friends, and a high proportion of these friends are merely acquaintances.

By now, most of us have likely come to terms with our digital presence and understand the risks of having our lives exposed on the internet. People understand that there might be compromising photographs of them online, they are aware that the things they say might be scrutinized in the future by someone considering hiring, dating, or perhaps befriending them.

Some things may be difficult to get out of people’s minds, but they are easy to remove from sight with the ever-helpful delete key. One would be hard-pressed to find a Facebook or Twitter user that has never given his or her account a digital makeover.

So if we have to control the social media versions of ourselves, what good is Facebook? It is a one-stop resource for people to find out all the information about someone that the person wants them to know. While this can be revealing, and it is enlightening to find out how much our friends our willing to share, it is almost always a public relations page, it is not an actual chronicle of the user’s life.

Let’s start asking ourselves how our social media use is affecting us.  Has social media made people more sociable or has it encouraged people to hide things about themselves and become more wary of how available the details of their lives are?

It turns out, looking at these highly edited profiles may be having an effect on our psyche. A Stanford study in January 2011 found that Facebook made people unhappy. It found that subjects grew increasingly dissatisfied with themselves the more they scrolled through everyone else’s photos and status updates.

How do you interact on Facebook or Twitter? If you are hiding aspects of your life and misrepresenting yourself, are the disingenuous interactions actually meaningful? Don’t filter yourself through it for something as meaningless as a “like.”