Saturday, March 17, 2012


As someone tapped into media both professionally and socially, I've been having frequent discussions about how people portray themselves online.

You know exactly what I'm talking about -- the perpetually drunk college girl tweeting about spirituality and quoting Rumi while posting pics of spring break; people who make their one night off in med school per week look like an episode of the Kardashians.

On the flip side, I read an article reporting that people are more likely to be honest on LinkedIn than in the cover letters and resumes they send for job applications. The fact that your family and friends can call you out when you turn coffee-filling into a leadership skill might keep the white lies at bay.

I've started to wonder if the way we project ourselves on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media medium is the way we actually see ourselves, or the way we want to see ourselves. And is this a bad thing? Maybe the person who we strive to look like via Facebook is a manifestation of our personal ideal. Well-read, well-traveled, active in our community, introspective -- those don't sound like bad qualities to aspire to, even if it takes "checking in" at your nearby coffee shop poetry slam to get in the mood.

So I started to look at my own use of social networks to see where the discrepancies lie between what I might be perceived as, and who I am:

Facebook Ankita: Big timeline picture of me backpacking through a rural area on a dirt road. Multiple photos of India or Indian things. Surrounded my nature and lots of beautiful little kids. A New York Times article.

Real Ankita: Yeah, I did that, I loved it, but I've spent more time in American suburbs than anywhere else. I'm really bad at hiking, especially in groups. It's true I'm obsessed with my students. Also, that was my one and only article of many that were pitched.

Twitter Ankita: Last three tweets were about Nick Kristof, famous yoga instructor Shiva Rea, and Indian politics.

Real Ankita: I catch up on Kristof columns but I'm hardly a regular. I started doing yoga regularly after a YEAR LONG HIATUS. I only pay attention to Indian politics during crisis. I actually read the news less than my sister unless I'm writing it.

LinkedIn Ankita: A schizophrenic list of internships in five different states, including Punjab. Not exactly sure where this person is headed, but I know she likes to write.

Real Ankita: Pretty much true, except my time at INSite magazine was short lived and flaky.

See what I mean? It's not that I lie, but the truth about my daily life seems disproportionate to the excitement of my social media existence.

I really value the people who are completely consistent, oscillating fluidly between their online and in person selves.. Our dean of students Sree Sreenivasan has this crazy social media presence with over 20,000 Twitter followers. But it's that same network that has led me to awesome sources, advice and published articles.

My friend Evan has a daring, Vice-like edgy blog that I could never write in a million years without picturing my parents' faces and crawling into a shameful corner. My college roommate and close friend Caity has devoted her Facebook to Teach For America and when I crave stories about her social life, I have to resort to actually talking to her because her passion for education is entrenched in each status update. And I recently went to a bar with my friend Ranjodh and talked about the same sort of philosophical and Gandhian ideas I reflected on his blog and Facebook.

I think social media is a powerful, inevitable tool and I fully embrace its possibilities. But I have to wonder how I can turn the focus on ego, self-branding, and the art of the humblebrag into an actual means of affecting change.

Okay, I'm off to a yoga class to live up to my personal website About Me page.


Goober! said...

facebook me vs. the real me hahahaha! I need to re-evaluate my life. loved this post!

Anonymous said...

Very insightful and introspective. Well done, Ankita!

Anonymous said...

eVery insightful and introspective. Well done, Ankita!

Vivek said...

What makes social media intriguing is exactly what you point out in the article. What we write may or may not be who we really are. For some it is a matter of who they want to be. Somewhere in the middle is the personal ideal, but online media allows people to broadcast, so the message is almost always tailored for each platform.

Anonymous said...

Nice comparison between how one is on different social sites! Well written!