I got my inspiration for this blog while watching an episode of “How I Met Your Mother”. Ted, the protagonist, goes on a date with a girl and they both make a promise not to do a digital background check on each other. This got me thinking about all the times I have gotten any impression from any friend or possible significant other from their online selves. It has become normal to “stalk” anyone online before meeting them (or even when we have met them) just to be sure of what type of person they are. Is our digital self an essential part of our personality? Why is it that when someone does not have social media it makes us doubt of their trust? These are questions that I wondered as I saw Ted progress in his date. Spoiler alert, at the end his friends do a background check for him and find out that the girl he is on a date with is amazing…been-in-the-cover-of-magazines amazing. When Ted finds out, he feels pressured to show this girl that he is also successful and the pressure makes the date fail immediately.
Curiosity can make us reach levels of insanity. The more we are interested in someone, the more we want to know about them and the further we are willing to go, stalk-wise. Being guilty of this millennial tradition, I wonder what it was like before. I recently started dating a guy from The Netherlands, and being from Mexico myself, I know and made peace with the fact that nothing from our contexts was similar. We grew up in completely different ways, and as far as I am concerned, he could be a serial killer. But, a very important thing we share because of out similar age is our presence in the digital world. If it wasn’t for his Facebook and Instagram profile it would have taken me longer to trust him. The fact that I can see that he has a family, a life, friends and even pets make me understand his past, and therefore, trust him.
I deleted my Instagram account before coming to The Netherlands, and I have to admit that in several occasions I have regretted this decision. The only reason for this is that I want all the new people I am meeting to know me, my style, see me for who I want to be seen. In reality, I have come to realize that this is a very new concept. Building an image of ourselves online makes us have to stand up to our own standards, most of which, we do not even live up to most of the time. I started considering my long-gone Instagram a dead part of my personality that needed to be filled with something else. How would everyone believe I was cool if they could not see it online? And, if it was not online, was it true? Am I cool without my social media? This may seem like a silly question, perhaps a shallow approach at my own personality, but I am being completely honest here. I doubted my own self-worth without a digital past to show off.
So, how messed up are social interaction dynamics nowadays, am I right? And even more messed up when I understood that they are directly linked with the concept of personality, and that is linked to our perception of ourselves and that is linked to social media. It really is a circle all along, and I am not sure I like it. This is because it is scary to think that I need something other than myself to define, well, myself.
I want to finish this blog with its beginning: Ted promised not to check his date’s social media and broke the promise, which costed him his chance with a girl. Even with the exaggerated nature of this story, relationship ways (either friendly or romantic) really have changed in the last decade. Everyone has a unique way to interact, but the underlying pressure of digital curiosity will most likely be there in this era. It is up to us to become as close or as separated from our digital selves, always remembering that we do have a choice to “be, or not to be” online.
I think that you touched upon a topic that concerns many social media users nowadays. Stalking has become an integral part of social media activity. What I find interesting is that you claim that by looking up other people’s social media before meeting them and seing pictures of them being social with their friends and family, makes them look trustworthy to you. And weirdly, I think most of us feel the same way. But then I ask myself if those social media accounts truly are as trustworthy as we believe them to be? What I mean by this is that we are never certain of the authenticity of the social media accounts we come across. The person in the picture could be somebody else than he/she claims to be. the person behind the screen could be a totally different person from the person in the pictures. I think it becomes dangerous if we start thinking that social media accounts depicting people being active in their social lives, seing friends, meeting with family members, are a source of trustworthiness, yet for some reason a lot of us think the same.
I think it is interesting how your trust in your boyfriend strengthened once you saw his social media, and I can also relate. I also understand what Chloe is saying about social media only portraying a contrived picture of who we are. You too are probably aware of this as you say ‘I want all the new people I am meeting to know me, my style[…]’ this shows that you know you can be in full control of your online presence and can manipulate it as you wish, but can you(we) really do that? I believe that there are some aspects of social media just do reflect who we are yet we cannot control them or do not think much about (i.e. people who tag us, tagged locations, people who follow us/comment our posts). And the fact that everything is open to interpretation is also a dangerous aspect.
It’s an interesting phenomenon indeed that we feel the need to check other’s social media to feel safe going on a date with a person, but in this digital age of dating it is, in my opinion not actually that weird if you think about it. Where, before social media and online dating you would usually meet someone through friends or friends-of-friends, or going out where you would see them in a particular enviroment, nowadays a lot of people get dates and meet romantic interests through dating apps such as tinder, where you get a very very limited picture of who they are, and it’s incredibly easy to filter how you present yourself. Doing that background check of their other social media allows you to explore some more of their personality which is probably less filtered, you get to see what you would, in the past have learned by talking to your friends or their friends about this romantic interest.