Instagram vs. reality

A few weeks ago, I was at a party. I sat at a table with a group of women in their fifties, as they opened up the discussion on social media and its ‘realness’. One of the women approached me in the discussion and claimed the images on my Instagram (myonline persona)do not really correspond with my offline persona as the images are not real and only represent a minimal part of my lifeThis statement got me thinking about the ways I present myself on my social media accounts. Are there any differences between @laurarobustella, the Instagram persona, and yours truly, the ‘actual’ Laura Robustella?

Physical appearance 

The saying goes ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover,’ however Instagram seems to judge the book by its cover, as the medium revolves around images. When I look at my Instagram feed, it looks well curated as the colours of the images look well together. In all images I wear the right amount of make-up (not too much, nor too little), my hair looks fine (straight as usual) and my outfits seem to represent my style (I guess). However, in real life, I do not look like this all the time. I like to put time in my appearance, by applying make-up, doing my hair and picking a nice-looking outfit, but I do not always feel like or take the time to do this. On most (school) days I barely wear make-up, nor, and especially during these awful rainy days of fall, straighten my hair. My outfits mainly consist of a hoodie, combined with a pair of trousers, since I always find myself feeling cold in school buildings. So, does my physical appearance differ in the online world? On school- or rainy days? Yes. On all the other days? No, not necessarily. 

Personal traits 

An Instagram feed can say a lot about someone’s personality. The medium provides a creative space where everyone can share their personal interests and preferences. I have asked one of my sister’s friends if she thought my Instagram fits my personality, since she only knows me on a superficial level. She scrolled through my feed and concluded that my online and offline persona are the same. According to her, I present myself as someone that likes art and fashion, loves to spend time with friends, has a thing for cats (especially my parent’s) and occasionally shares images of good food and drinks. When I asked my friends, they agreed with this conclusion, however they mentioned I, sometimes, ‘fake’ fun moments. I have the tendency to create an illusion where I post fun looking images of me (and others) where I actually felt unhappy. For instance, this summer I visited a festival with some of my friends. I shared an image of us, in which it seemed like we had a great time. A few hours after the picture was taken, I had a panic attack and cried as long as the festival lasted. Is this image all fake? Not necessarily, as I actually had some fun at the festival, before it turned into a complete catastrophe. However, I would never share these feelings with my Instagram followers. I only feel comfortable sharing my personal feelings with close friends, whereas my followers can best be categorized into two groups: my actual friends and a bunch of people I do not know (that well), do not like or that are actually fake Instagramaccounts. So, does my online personality differ from my offline personality? Yes and no. My personality online is slightly different since it only shows positive and happy images whereas I do not always feel that way. However, my personality online is also similar to my offline personality as it only represents a small, superficial, part of my life.  

As you can see, I had a great time, before I had a panic attack. Is this a ‘fake’ image, as the I had fun while the picture was taken, but cried my way through the festival?

Online I tend to create a world in which I always look and feel good. However, these images only represent a small part of the actual reality. My online representation does not always match my actual looks and feelings. I do not look nor feel like the person I tend to be on Instagram all the time, which is ok. For now, I just want to use the medium as a creative and social outlet. Maybe I will start sharing more emotional stuff one day, but only when I think it’s necessary and not because someone accuses me of misleading people with fake images.