There are over a billion active users on Facebook and the average North American has five different social media profiles. Personally, I have three profiles that I intentionally created for different purposes. Generally, I do not post on social media with a stream of consciousness – “ I am very deliberate with the content I write, sometimes talking myself out of an idea to avoid giving off the wrong impression to my friends, family, coworkers, and complete strangers. When I caught myself thinking that a particular post was more suitable for Twitter than Facebook and LinkedIn, I really had to examine the self-governing process that caused me to make that decision, and to confront what thoughts went into constructing my online identities. I began to question if a person’s activity on social media reflects their offline personality, or if we are all to manufacturing some aspect of our online image, achievements, or interests in order to manage others (or our own) perception of who we are.
The idea that we are never really being our authentic selves in front of others is not new, sociologist Erving Goffman theorized that social interaction is like theatre, where an individual’s activity is like a performance and people are actors taking on various roles in different situations on stage. His work suggests that we aren’t really ourselves when we are acting but conforming to particular roles and behaviours according to socialized norms. It is only “backstage” where there is no audience and no role to play that we can really be ourselves. Within this framework, everything we do on social media is done with an audience in mind and is therefore, a performance.
It is reasonable to infer that our social media identities are not an authentic representation of our offline self, let alone our authentic self.
Though most people tend to recreate their offline personality online, they usually project an enhanced version of themselves by either masking what they dislike or consider unsatisfactory about themselves, or by carefully choosing what they post with their audience in mind to avoid confrontation. The process of editing social media profiles to manage impressions is quite common. We were each able to point out cases where people took it too far, especially public figures and politicians, creating images that hardly resembled a relatable person.
What has been surprising though, are extreme cases where people go beyond enhancing details about their identity online and create entirely fake profiles with the intent of deceiving others, popularly known as Catfishing.
The challenge for Orenda is to figure out what motivates this type of online behaviour so we can better understand the content we share and how we identify with the recognizable brands that convey personality traits. The goal is to understand what language patterns can tell us about personality types, which types make up our networks, and what personalities does a particular brand appeal to. With these insights, Orenda will develop reputation and brand management strategies that are customized for key publics based on personality insights. With this goal in mind, we are excited to announce that Orenda will be partnering with IBM Watson Ecosystem to implement Personality Insights as an add-on to our services.