Many, many years ago, when I was still a teenager and mIRC was the rage then, one of my friends suddenly picked a quarrel with me online. I can’t remember the context of the argument—all I recall was that we were exchanging so many expletives online, I knew the friendship was over from then on.
The next day, when I saw him in school, I expected glares from him and an uncomfortable day. However, he greeted me as usual, and we went to our classrooms chit-chatting about everything under the sun, as if the previous day’s argument had not occurred.
I was then confused, wondering why he had become a different person altogether—but now, with social media almost taking over our lives, I know what has happened.
He hasn’t become a different person in real life—he has, and most likely always will be, a different person in the online world.
This phenomenon is more common than you expect: just scroll through your Facebook or Instagram feed and take note of the first five posts from your friends. Now, if you know these friends in real life, how different are they from their “online personalities”?
Once, I was invited to a secondary school to give a talk as I am a novelist. It’s an elite school and prior to that, I kind of made an online announcement in Facebook. The haters all came in fast and furious—some even wanted to condemn the teacher who invited me over, because I’ve “murdered the English language” or that I’m an “idiot” (seriously, it was that bad).
When I was in the school, I was expecting haters to come to me with rotten eggs. But no—people came to me, and they were not just nice—they were extremely nice, as though the haters had never existed.
You see, the crux of the issue isn’t that people have double faces; it’s just that with the Internet, you can literally create a new persona, be it a courageous one or a righteous one, with a click of the mouse.
It hasn’t been too much of an issue until social media platforms started to change their algorithm, providing more reach for posts that garner more engagement. Those online personas used to be white noise, but with platforms inflating their reach, they get more attention.
And more attention would be a good incentive for them to even build their online persona.
Take, for example, a lady who is a girl-next-door. She builds an online persona of a hot girl even when she’s extremely conservative in real life, because posting images of her drinking green tea isn’t going to gain any attention: posing in front of a car will.
But that isn’t harmful, you argue. It’s just sad. However, unfortunately, there’s a group of online personas that are not just sad, but harmful, too.
Studies have shown that any post that evoke the emotion anger tends to be shared more often and faster. What better way to gain attention, eh?
And let’s face it: these haters are just typical people on the street with online personas that aren’t parallel in real life. They’re haters because it’s just an online persona they’ve made, out of choice or subconscious.
And I guess I won’t need to tell you how they could have affected society. If anything, here’s what we often do in Goody Feed: my colleague would have to inform any new staff about this phenomenon, because no matter what they do, as long as you’re on the Internet, the haters will hate on you (unless you’ve got only friends as your readers / viewers).
This double-faced generation is definitely here to stay. In fact, even without having to go through scholarly papers, I know that it’s going to get worse.
But there’s a solution, and you’ve already got it in you. All you need to know is that double-faced people exist, and whatever people say online is never a true reflection of what they think, and you won’t be affected.
If not, just remember how my friend changed his attitude in less than 12 hours, and you’ll understand.
And just for your info, I didn’t make up any of these events. In fact, I think I’ll make it an SOP to let any new Goody Feed staff read this.
Featured Image: Andrey Burmakin / Shutterstock.com
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