Self-Expression: Are You Being Real Online

How do you define being authentic? What does authenticity mean? Do you behave differently on social media and in real life?

Read more to find out which is your trueself.

Authenticity refers to the quality of being real or genuine. We tend to view it as whether or not people around us think we’re ‘real’, but it’s all about staying true to ourselves — acting according to our own set of values, beliefs, needs, and wants without letting others dictate it. Most of us have at least one social media account, active or not. We determine our online personality as we can control what we’d like to share to the rest of the world (or to whoever’s watching). In fact, our bio allows us to describe who we are or what we want others to see. 

We choose our persona and with functions like ‘Close Friends’ on Instagram Story, we can decide who and what we’d like to show certain people and what everyone else sees about ourselves. Hence, we might appear different from the way we’re offline, which begs the question then whether we’re authentic online? So, is the real you, your physical being or your social presence?

#1. Expressing yourself online


Ever noticed how someone you met online acts differently in person? Perhaps that person could even be you and you wonder which is the real you? 

Well, this isn’t to say you’re not being real, rather, some of us simply express ourselves better online. Perhaps, we’re more comfortable expressing our inner thoughts, opinions, and feelings when we’re not directly confronting people especially if we’re in the center of attention like during a presentation or when we’re in conflict with someone else.  

With TikTok and Instagram, where we can talk to a camera and then upload our content, we don’t need to worry about faltering, compared to when we’re in front of a live audience. We can film and capture what we want and edit out parts that doesn’t fit with our ‘personal brand’. Conversely, we may also feel it’s easier to convey genuine thoughts and opinions online without filtering as no one can physically ‘see’ or harm us. And that’s perhaps why cyberbullying and online trolls dare to go about and spew hate. As much as we’re free to express, social presence comes with these dangers too. 


But, someone on Twitter expressed, “I come here to talk to myself, if you read it that’s on you”. Something to think about the next time you’re upset over someone’s personal tweet? Besides,  we can choose to ignore or block someone on social media, but it’s not really possible physically when we feel the need to, right?  

The fact that social media allows us to easily reach a wide audience instantly could be why our online and offline personalities differ. As we share more online, we gain followers who enjoy watching and engaging with our content. This isn’t possible offline unless you’re a celebrity. And soon we become more bold and we may even show a side of us we’re shy to show in person. This explains how an offline introvert might be well-spoken or popular on socials. 

Kon Wen Wei, a youth influencer and content creator, who identifies as an INFP when asked about her MBTI personality, strives to keep real online. She’s opened up about her anxiety in her YouTube videos and the fact that she’s actually an introvert. 

study by researchers from Kaohsiung Medical University on college students found social anxiety was generally lower during online interaction than during real-life interaction. This shows that individuals who battle with social anxiety feel safer to express their authentic selves online. 

Besides, having a strong social media presence because of your content could boost your confidence or status offline.

#2. Does following trends make us less authentic?


What about following social media trends? This includes keeping up with the latest trends and posting it online. The most evident example is the culture of ‘doing it for the ‘gram’. Are we being ourselves or are we simply doing what’s expected of us? We see Instagram users, mainly Gen-Zs investing on their feed ncluding going out of their way to take photos and posting their cafe-hopping day or the latest trendy item that they own. There are often comments questioning the authenticity of these users with remarks of how one’s content is staged, edited to hide flaws, or that they’re doing it to stay relevant.

However, there are also users who genuinely enjoy it and simply wants to take care of their feed; it could be as simple as doing it for ourselves. Is it right to question one’s form of happiness?

Similarly, this applies to the content of brand affiliates and influencers, who rank from nano to mega, on social media. We shouldn’t immediately assume that the purpose of one’s content is for clout when they genuinely enjoy sharing through content such as posts, stories, reels, and TikToks. Of course, it’s crucial to remain authentic, especially when giving reviews about goods and services to the public. Marketing a product that we actually personally dislike might cause others to question our authenticity.  

Twitter and other blogging media are also used to express ourselves as an online diary. Many have probably gone viral overnight for their ‘unpopular opinions’. Some people may chase clout but some have also used their voice on Twitter to impact change such as Hanna Alkaf, a Malaysian author who used her influence and kickstarted the #KitaJagaKita campaign to mobilise aids for those in need during the pandemic. While she uses her platform to make a change, Hanna also openly tweets about her life as an author and a mother. So following the latest trends or being a public figure doesn’t mean we’re not being ourselves.

All in all, our online personality stems from our identity as a whole. And being online allows us to break out of our shells, which may not be possible physically. Besides, when getting to know someone, don’t we follow their social accounts? 

Having an online personality doesn’t necessarily make us less authentic. We should do what makes us happy without the fear of judgement from society. Anyone who wants to post 100 stories a day or take pictures with filters labelled as ‘catfish filters’ should just do it, because we’re not going to be able to do so in an offline setting. Not everyone has to like or agree with us online, and that’s okay as long as we don’t commit crimes or try to scam another on Tinder

With authenticity as your fighter, you’ll win anytime.

Rie is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Mass Communication (Hons) at Taylor's University. She is also the current Vice President of Taylor’s Flix Society and is active in other clubs and societies within campus. She’s persistent towards her desires and loves exploring and investing in various hobbies and interests, such as fashion.

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