Differences between your online persona and your IRL persona?

The blogosphere (including us) has recently been discussing how blogs are only a specific persona that the blogger shows (or curates, depending on your beliefs about the nature of truth and perception and personality).

That got us thinking about how we differ IRL vs. our blog personas.  We thought we’d share some of the differences.

I am a lot nicer IRL.  A LOT.  My snark only comes out with anonymity.  I may think things IRL but I don’t say things unless I can say something nice.  #2, however: I think I might actually be nicer on this blog than IRL.

I’m also more introverted IRL.  I’ve done meetups with groups of forum people and they are surprised that I’m quiet at the dinner table even though I’m super chatty online.  (This same thing isn’t true with people I know well IRL or when I’m at a conference on topics I’m an expert on– I’m perfectly chatty with subject matter I feel comfortable with.)  #2 is super-introverted all the time and prefers online communication.  Or books.

I’m less annoyed about giving an impromptu lecture on my subject matter of expertise IRL than online.  Online it often feels like someone should be paying me to argue with them.  (I know it may seem like this isn’t possible, but I promise, I lecture a LOT IRL.)

What don’t I share with you?  Mostly boring stuff.  I only online share things if I find them interesting and/or funny.  I also try not to share things that would hurt other people if our blog and real identities became front page news.

I’m often not as witty because online you only get the good stuff, not the stuff that failed at being funny or brilliant (at least IMO).

Who is the real us?  Well, what is reality anyway?

How do your IRL and online personas differ?  Who is the real you?

45 Responses to “Differences between your online persona and your IRL persona?”

  1. independentclause Says:

    So I started my blog when I went freelance to be a comedic (I hoped) grumble fest. This was six years ago (dear god). Now that I’m older my real-life persona is so much more like my cussing, sassy, cranky blog self that it scares me. :)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Interesting. Do you think the blog shaped you or do you think you grew into your aspirational self?

      • independentclause Says:

        I started the blog at a time that I was turning from writing poetry to writing prose. (I have an MFA.) So it was an experiment in prose. I vaguely remember being intimidated writing prose, which now seems ludicrous, but then I’m also on draft 19 of my damn nonfiction book, so there you go. So I became more confident about meeting the right margin, and also in my voice. I was in a confidence-depleting job then, and I’m not anymore. All of those things have allowed my Indy Clause persona to infiltrate my real-life persona. I’m more confident and I give fewer fucks, so I can be that Indy person more.

      • independentclause Says:

        PS Thank you for asking that question, because that was a personally useful train of thought. :)

      • independentclause Says:

        Sorry, I’m hogging the thread, but also I think writing by definition limits you to a certain set of characteristics. One can’t show every single side of every single issue or experience. In academia one might write, “X is beyond the scope of the current study,” and I think that’s true for creative writing as well.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        No need for apologies!

  2. hollyatclubthrifty Says:

    I have been reading your blog and commenting for years and I still can’t tell which one of you is writing stuff. Do you trade off and on?

  3. Mel Says:

    I think both are the real me. I am definitely a lot more confident and eloquent and talkative online. But I am also more confident, eloquent, and talkative inside my house or with close friends. So I think my online voice is closer to my personal voice, and my public voice is much quieter.

    • Ana Says:

      This is exactly what I was going to say. except without the “eloquent” part. My blog persona is very close to the “me” I share with close friends. Maybe nicer, because I am liberal with deleting/editing.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Huh, interesting. With extremely close friends sometimes I let out a mean spirit about the world that gets kept hidden everywhere else in my life. (Not being mean to them, but admitting to a little Schadenfreude here and there). It helps me cleanse it out of my system since I really don’t want to be someone who seeks out schadenfreude. (Though if Trump chokes on one of his steaks or something, I will probably not shed any tears, and then I’ll feel a bit guilty about not feeling guilty.)

      Do other folks think their online persona is closer to their “for general consumption” IRL public persona or their “with close friends” persona? Does anonymity allow the same kind of presentation that trust among friends does? Or is something else going on?

      • Debbie M Says:

        I do not feel guilty about bad stuff that happens that I’m sort of glad happened. So long as there is no way that anything I have done could have made that more likely to happen. Or anything I could have done to make it less likely.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I don’t feel guilty about bad stuff happening to people I really don’t like (assuming I didn’t cause it). I feel guilty when I’m not sad or am kind of glad about it happening, at least in terms of the “sudden unexpected death” kinds of bad stuff. According to Daria, that makes me a good person. :)

      • chacha1 Says:

        I will confess that when Antonin Scalia died, my response was “woo-hoo!” Not because I was glad he died, but because I was glad his overt religiosity was off the Court. I do not feel guilty about that response, and I do not expect to feel guilty for rejoicing when any religious bugnut is permanently shuffled out of our political deck.

        This is in the huge range of stuff I do not blog about, but that my IRL friends would be totally unsurprised by. :-) As I have gotten older, my “for general consumption” persona has gotten much closer to my “with close friends” persona because I have grown to GAF about fewer and fewer things, including my “public image.”

        Generally, I try to leave people and situations better-off than I found them; but on the flip side, I do not go looking for things to improve, because I have enough to do already. People who know me, know that.

        I’ve come to conclude that most people don’t actually want to be educated, and it’s impossible to change someone’s mind; so while like anyone I enjoy airing my opinions, I don’t pursue discussions into arguments. If you (rhetorical “you”) don’t get combative, generally people will trust that they can take what you say (or write) at face value.

        Not sure how, or if, anonymity would change my presentation. I used to be a lot more teachy & preachy on the blog, but nobody cared, and it was tiring! I doubt that experience would have been different absent links to my IRL self.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Yeah, I was specifically thinking about Scalia… I feel a little less guilty about not feeling guilty because he caused so much harm.

  4. crazy grad mama Says:

    Like Mel, I think my online voice is closer to what’s actually going on inside my head. I’m definitely angrier online than I am IRL, but that’s because I don’t have an outlet for anger IRL. However, while I’m more open about depression and anxiety online (because anonymity), I’m less anxious and depressed online (because that happens behind the scenes, and because nobody wants to read morose thoughts day after day after day).

  5. middle_class Says:

    I don’t think I have a blog persona since my blog is focused on personal finance. I guess I come across as a nice, introverted person who likes clothes/shoes and talks about money a lot?

    I do think that I “act” differently depending on the person(s) I’m with (and situation). At work, I guess I’m quiet but friendly. Co-workers and friends/family who know me well know that I can be sarcastic.

  6. Mrs PoP Says:

    I probably come off as less introverted online, which I think is mostly a function of the internet not really capturing (or rather, displaying) when you are a silent observer. But for the most part, my online “persona” is a fairly accurate reflection of me in IRL. I think I’m a very WYSIWYG person.

    I suppose there are two exceptions to my WYSIWYG-ness, though. The first is the occasionally fantastically silly side of me that only really escapes when in the company of Mr PoP and a very small handful of trusted others. But you could know me IRL for a decade or more and not know that’s there. The second is that I pretty much never write about (and barely allude to) challenges in personal relationships with others because I don’t want it on any sort of permanent searchable record. But I’ll freely discuss those challenges with just about anyone face-to-face or via email.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      In my household, I am the only member who is emphatically NOT silly. We even have a thing with the kids, “Is Daddy silly? Is DC1 silly? Is DC2 silly? Is mommy silly?”

      • Leah Says:

        Our little one is super into the sillies recently. She loves to call our cat silly. We go through so many people. Sometimes, she’s the silly one. Sometimes it’s daddy or grandma or her daycare teacher. She also loves to say “no, daddy not silly.”

  7. chacha1 Says:

    Me online and me IRL are essentially the same person; my blog isn’t anonymous and I use the same handle everywhere. Any given person IRL and any given reader will get a radically different picture of me, of course, based on the nature of the interaction we have. If someone visits my blog and looks at only one or two of the 600+ existing posts (I’ve been writing the thing since 2009; many posts have come and gone) they are not going to know who I am any more than the person who checks me out at Macy’s. Someone who reads the ballroom-dancing material is going to think of me in a different way than the person who reads the Sierra material.

    I don’t write about my work online anywhere near as much as I talk about it IRL, because I work in law. … I talk about certain family issues more IRL than I do online (I have discussed personal things here and on a private forum, but I don’t really blog about them) because of the “it’s their story as much as mine” aspect. Also because my mother reads my blog but doesn’t read any of the other stuff I do online, and while the ongoing family drama is not about her, reading about it would upset her for no good reason. She gets a version of it, in email.

  8. xykademiqz Says:

    People have told me I am a serious person online, and also think I sound more grumpy/angry online than IRL, mostly because I feel compelled to write more when something is bothering me. Perhaps I am also cooler online, but maybe just more stuck up. I am fairly geeky IRL (or is it nerdy?) and happily so; I also have a big mouth, am quite sarcastic, and I joke around a lot (I am proud that my IRL Rate My Prof comments include both ‘hilarious’ and ‘respected by students’). I amuse and annoy my loved ones with an endless stream of puns (playing with the language makes me happy).
    I feel that you establish a persona online and it’s hard to escape it (I suppose just like IRL); people perceive you a certain way and renormalize your thoughts and comments through what they think you are, even though they actually may know very little about you; I find that many people see other people’s online personas as very one-dimensional, which is really silly; everyone seems keen on forgetting that there’s a human behind every pseud. I think it is quite possible to get to really know someone online, especially a blogger, but you have to commit and read them for a long time, for years. But based on a couple of posts, we all seem like someone else. I think that’s the nature of any asynchronous communication.

    And yeah, the web as a whole terrifies me. There are wonderful blogs where I enjoy interacting with people, but so much of it is just a nightmare. Twitter anyone? Now with the power to ruin careers and endanger personal safety.
    Comments on YouTube clips, news reports, and books can make me lose faith in humanity.

    Some students have asked me why I don’t post my lectures online, because they (the lectures) are apparently very good. Can you imagine all the awful comments about this fat, ugly, stupid woman with an accent lecturing online? (On occasion I get terrified of all the awful comments I may or may not get on my upcoming book…) The web is scary.

  9. Debbie M Says:

    Hmm. I’m definitely more in monologue mode when I’m blogging. (Until the comment section.) In real life, I tend to listen more (because I’ve already heard what *I* have to say).

    I talk about other people less online–I try to think of my blog as my own story, but in real life, I do pass on other people’s stories more.

    I think online me is more practical. At least, someone I met online and then visited in person was surprised that I have long hair and I realized that in most ways short hair is more practical. (But you do have to get more hair cuts and I would be much more afraid to cut my hair myself.) Or maybe I’m more girly in real life, though even online I do have a female-sounding name.

    Finally, I think my Facebook persona is closer to my general-consumption IRL persona because I have a lot of Facebook friends including some very religious relatives, very conservative friends, radically creative friends, etc.

    With my blog, there are very few people who read, and even though that’s technically open to more people, I act closer to my close-friends IRL persona. Even though most of my readers are either online friends like y’all, mostly online friends who I met at a party but then liked their blogs, or friends of my boyfriend who started off mostly just wanting to know more about what’s going on with him since he rarely writes online.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I like to think that I give discussion-based lectures, both on the blog and IRL. Man, I must be loads of fun at parties… (though really, the only parties I go to these days are either for work or for kids under the age of 5).

  10. Cloud Says:

    Hmmm. I think I am more eloquent online, because I can edit more. There are also topics I’ll discuss online that I just don’t talk about in real life- mostly around parenting. There are very few people in real life with whom I’ll be completely open about parenting. I aim to be just as nice/polite in both places, but I’m sure I fail. Sometimes, I’m nicer online, because I can edit or write something and then delete it. I try not to post anything online I wouldn’t say in person, but I suspect I have at times failed at that. I’d never post something I didn’t believe, but there are plenty of times I’ve posted something that I rarely actually say in real life.

  11. First Gen American Says:

    Interesting question. I probably have shared more online than I do in person, but that’s just because my current circle of friends don’t feed off of my formerly F-ed up life as much as my former friends used to (and I think that’s probably a good thing). I will still share most of those things with anyone in real life that asks if I think it will help them in some way, so that part isn’t different.

    Not too many blog people have met me in real life so it’s hard to tell what people think from the outside looking in. I think generally, for everyone, it probably can come off that a blog personality is more extroverted than a real life one. Most people don’t spend time with each other in binge like doses. Hoever, if you really take to someone’s blog, you can spend hours in their archives binge reading their stuff and really getting to know the online persona better. That almost never happens as an adult in real life in a friendship capacity unless you’re bound together in some kind of crisis or doing a big project together.

  12. eemusings Says:

    It’s all me, just different aspects I suppose. I imagine that I come off a bit less introverted and a bit more snarky/witty online? Could just be imagining it though. And definitely more articulate online.

  13. Jay Says:

    I think my online-persona is similar to the way I present with acquaintances and in social groups of people I don’t know, although I’m quieter and more measured online. In private, with close friends, I’m less circumspect and definitely bawdier. It’s more public/private, with an awareness that the Internet is Forever, than anything else.

    The first time I met an on-line friend in person she said “You’re taller online.”

  14. Flavia Says:

    A couple of very different friends have commented that they think my blog persona is fiercer or more intense than I am in person. (Maybe because I’m more introverted, or because I read as kinda femme? I don’t know.) My own perception, though, is that I’m more patient or generous on-blog than IRL, where I’m a huge complainer and can be (I try not to be, but it’s in my nature) rather prickly and not subtle about when I’m suffering fools not especially gladly.

    Basically, I consider the blog to be continuous with my real self, but a more considered & reflective version.

  15. Catwoman73 Says:

    I love this- I often try to envision what the people behind the blogs are really like, so reading this post and all the comments has been very enlightening!

    Me- I’ve always thought that my online persona and my IRL persona are pretty similar, but interestingly, now that I’ve taken the time to really think about it, I think my online persona represents the me that you might encounter if we were acquaintances rather than good friends. It’s not that I hide anything, it’s just a toned down version of who I really am. Those who know me best know that I am extremely introverted, cynical, intensely funny, painfully emotional, and fiercely loyal. Some of that may come through in what I present online, but if you really got to know me IRL, you might be surprised just how intense I am. Just ask my husband. Lol.

    I think that toned down version of me comes through because I often use my blog to work through my sh*t. It is where I go to set the emotion aside, and throw some logic at the problems I’m facing. One of these days, I’m going to have to write a post that truly shows off my humor and cynicism… it might actually a bit shocking for those who have been reading my blog for a while!

  16. jjiraffe Says:

    Interesting one. I think I’m probably more opinionated and feisty online, although that still is part of my overall personality. People tend to think I am pretty polished and composed in real life, and sometimes that doesn’t come across as authentic.

  17. SP Says:

    I hope I’m more interesting and impressive and fun offline. :)

    I’m pretty self-absorbed online, but I’m actually a nice and friendly person IRL and no more self-absorbed than well adjusted people, and I talk about stuff other than myself and my money. I also smile a lot more than average, or at least that is what I gather based on things people say, which you wouldn’t know from online. I’m pretty diplomatic and level headed, I think that is both online and IRL. I’m introverted in general, but I think that is also not really hidden online.

  18. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    I think my blog persona is more like my work persona: I’m not *nice* and I don’t have any motivation to tolerate nonsense, anti-vaccine wackjobs, or my in-laws. In real life, I told someone here I am not nice and she looked at me incredulously. Small town life for me involves a lot of biting my tongue because I have a policy of never saying anything negative about anyone else who lives here (I would say ‘I think he’s having a hard time finding a job’ but not ‘he’s really been a dick about it, too’).

    But aren’t they all always the ‘real you?’ Some kind of facet. Or it’s all an act and we’re shadows on the wall……

  19. gwinne Says:

    Even though I know I have a blog persona, it’s still ME. Just like I’m slightly different versions of me in a committee meeting, with students, with family, with friends, etc. The version of me you get online, though, is probably the closest to my heart, or the one that my good friends get. The only difference is my good friends know the names of folks you hear about as Crazy Senior Colleague and the like! Would love to have coffee with most of the folks who are regular commenters on my blog, including #1 and #2.

  20. Linda Says:

    Since I often write on my blog to process through something or record my thoughts I think I come across as much more serious and angsty online than I am in person. I’m actually a pretty happy person and can be quite silly at times.

    I’ve blown my cover often enough that I do self-censor a bit on the blog. My blog address is usually in my personal email signature, so guys with whom I’ve been in close relationships, family members, and friends could all read it if they want to follow that link. Luckily (?), my family doesn’t seem interested in reading anything I’ve written there. I know my ex-husband reads the blog because he’s emailed me to offer some support at times. If I really don’t want to take the risk that my blog be read by someone, I make sure I strip out the signature line before I send the email. I’m very careful to never connect my work colleagues to my blog, too.

  21. undine Says:

    Great question. I’m looking forward to Friday, because I can’t distinguish between the voices of n&m 1 &2, either (comment upthread).

    The blog persona is what only a few people close to me might see, especially when I’m annoyed about something. A lot of people don’t get my sense of humor, and I’m quite guarded around people I don’t know. On the blog, I mostly say what I really think. In real life, I’m more temperate about what I say.


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