Xeno Hemlock


Signs That Your Online and Offline Selves are Incongruent

A brief exercise

Picture the physical version of yourself. A face on a head. Limbs made of flesh and bones. You have clothes on unless you go naked all the time. You have a unique set of mannerisms. And a name, unseen but spoken and written.

Next, conjure a picture of your online version. A face on a head, which is mostly a square and sometimes a circle. Limbs made of flesh and bones which sometimes we see or not depending on whether the square would show it. You have clothes on too, the best you have I must say, unless you like going naked all the time too. Your unique set of mannerisms we cannot see unless you are a moving series of images accompanied by a recorded sound.  Finally, a name! Sometimes spoken but always seen and always written.

Now, what's the difference between the two?


The online version of you is, well, the same as the physical version of you. Aside from some restrictions (the square or circle limiting which part of your face or body is shown and hidden) and some addition (your name which is always seen because you wouldn't go around the city or town with a name plate around your neck, right?), they should be the same. 

Now, go back to the two "you" and evaluate again. Are they the same? If yes, then great! If not, you are one of the "everybody".


Everybody has a story

In Chapter 3, titled Everybody's Got a Story and It's Not The One They're Telling, of Donald Miller's book Scary Close, he recalled about his time at a therapy camp called Onsite. After a romantic breakup, he decided to go there to show people he was correcting his mistakes that lead to the public breakup. There, he met a guy named Bill who helped him realise that he was putting on a false self for the world. This false self is a "character" that Donald liked to play, as if in a theatre, to conceal his true self. 

Day by day, we live with our true selves coated by our false selves to compensate for the things we lack, to conceal our shame, or to get validation from other people. There's a big disconnect between who we are and what we present to the world. In this era of social media, who we are online can be disconnected with our offline selves. There is incongruence between the two. 


What does this have to do with my dream?

The world is flat, thanks to this wonderful thing called the Internet. It's easier now more than ever to find information on something and it's easier now more than ever to find and connect with other people from different parts of the globe.

Your dream lives in your offline self. it's very important that who you present yourself to be online is congruent with who you are in real life. If they are, you will attract like-minded people through the Internet. For introverts or for those limited by their environment, that's very helpful. 

One of my aches early on with my writing career was the feeling of loneliness. I had rediscovered my calling but I felt no one supported me. Until I realised that my online self wasn't truly representative of who I really was offline, the dream sometimes felt more like a burden than a dream. I couldn't completely own being a writer online so how could other writers find me? I even hesitated describing myself as a writer online, you know, like putting "writer" in the "Description" box online. Now, what did that say about me? I tried to imitate other writers' voice instead of embracing mine and cultivating it so it becomes stronger. My offline self didn't portray who I really was.

But I revised all that and continue to do so. The feeling of loneliness is finally slipping away as I find people who share the same journey. The saying "you can make it alone" no longer fears me because I now know the truth.

Until we align our online and offline selves, the right people will never find us.


What are the signs that your online and offline selves are incongruent?


1. You compare yourself against other people.

Comparison is unhealthy especially when you're comparing yourself against someone else and their photos from their most recent vacation, their latest gadgets, their #OOTD (outfit of the day), their number of followers and likes, or the number of comments they receive. It's absurd. It's pathetic. It's completely unnecessary. When you share something online, you share it for the reason of self-expression and not for competition. There is no need for you to one-up another when sharing a part of yourself.


2. You make things up.

If you have to invent it, it doesn't exist. If it isn't true, it's not worth sharing. If you have to wear a mask before you present yourself in the online world, then you have issues you need to solve within yourself. If you have to decorate your online self with lies, you are living two miserable existences. The flow from your offline self to your online self should be a natural process free of junk, free of contamination. When you make things up, you are not only lying to the world but also to yourself.


3. You crave for others' validation and attention.

You follow someone on social media. Then as soon as they follow you, you unfollow them. You keep checking your latest post to monitor the number of likes and comments. You get pissed as fuck when someone unfollows you or blocks you. Your world goes in an imbalance when the number of likes and comments you received did not meet expectation. If you feel or do any or all of these, you're validation and attention hungry. Again, when you share something online, you do it for self-expression.


4. You don't feel good about it.  

If it doesn't feel good, something's wrong. Simple, right? If after a minute, an hour, or a day of sharing, you second-guessed it, something's wrong. If there's a doubt, something's not right. If it bothers you, something's not aligned. Even in real life, when we do something that isn't aligned with our core values, we feel bad. The same thing applies on what we do online.


What now?

Donald Miller ended Scary Close's Chapter 3 with this:

Sometimes the story we’re telling the world isn’t half as endearing as the one that lives inside of us.

Isn't it sad when our true selves are not the ones we present to the online world? Do you want to be performing all your life? Or do you want alignment between who you are in real life and who you are online? Choose.