I was in the middle of reading Love Illuminated: Exploring Life’s Most Mystifying Subject (With the help of 50,000 Strangers) when a section on the online persona spoke to me.
Sit a spell while having a bowl of this curried lentil, tomato, and coconut soup and let’s discuss.
If you have carried on a long virtual conversation with someone you haven’t met – whether via a dating site, Facebook, or another social media avenue – you will likely recognize the disconnect that can happen if you meet that person in real life.
As Daniel Jones, the author of Love Illuminated and editor of the New York Times’ Modern Love column, explains it, a lot of people have one voice in writing and another voice in person. The problem with the author persona, writes Jones, “is that this persona is just a part of us, not all of us. And in some ways it may actually be the opposite of who we are in person.”
Similarly, think of the people who post so much on Facebook or Instagram that you think they are ALWAYS partying, out with friends, embarked on some kind of adventure. In reality, they may lead a quieter life.
You can be a more confident, assertive, flirty person online but that may not carry over to your “real life” self. And, says Jones in his book, “…the deeper we get with someone in an online-only relationship, the more we get tricked into believing our online persona is the real us.”
I would add that over time we also develop a greater belief that the other person is the real him or her. Even a phone persona, although closer to someone’s true self, is not exactly the same as a real life flesh and blood person with body language.
Jones’ description reminds me of the times I carried on long and wonderful virtual exchanges. I was so disappointed to find that the witty, flirty man I’d exchanged dozens of messages with was in fact a figment of both of our imaginations.
Lesson learned. Now I don’t let written communication go on very long. I want to see if there’s chemistry and what the real life person is like. Also, meeting someone fairly soon after connecting online protects me from a tendency to jump too fast. With very little to go on, I can build a whole construct about a person and our possible relationship (if I was younger, I’d fantasize about the children we would have).
I will order up a caveat about the whole persona thing. Sometimes, people can manifest a similar personality both in writing and in real life. They can be charming virtually and when you’re sitting across from them at dinner.
If you find one of these, enjoy your good fortune.
Until next week, happy dating or not dating.