We all do this.  When entering a status update on our channel of choice, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Linkedin etc, we selectively edit our personal brand to represent the aspects we want to share.  Usually these are optimistic, upbeat, motivational, showing off, bragging, and self-aggrandising.  Often people want to compete with others, in terms of how happy, successful and fulfilled they are, and how, despite appearances, they are prospering and progressing effectively through life’s many challenges.  In a way, they are presenting themselves as heroic figures.  Of course there are all types of personalities online, and many different ways of painting your own picture, be it a dark or sunny one, and ranging from a wildly optimistic to a deeply pessimistic outlook.

Much weight, in social networking as well as with “the kids”, is attached to keeping it real.  Giving an authentic and genuine portrayal of yourself and how you see the world.  Mostly we don’t do that though, do we?  We know how we’d like to be viewed, and we try to give that impression via regular “status updates”.  Look how cool, sinister, Machiavellian, intriguing, girly, dizzy, angry I am! (delete where appropriate)  Like great musicians and drummers (we are never allowed to call ourselves musicians), it’s what we leave out that is probably most telling.  The status updates that are never posted; the ones we don’t want to reveal.

Silently punching the air, when hearing a colleague got a bad review. Having a cry in the car, after visiting a sick child. Realising that you’ve done no work all day.  Wondering how your credit card bill got so big.

Whilst some do, these are status updates which are unlikely to be posted, but really do help to paint a fuller three-dimensional picture of a person.  If we really wanted to be genuine and authentic, wouldn’t we post these too?  Apparently not.  We are all busy glossing over these more personal details, and sticking to our chosen chirpy narrative.  In Glasgow, after asking “How are you?”, we then ask, “but how are you, in yourself?”  This is deliberate and caring way of enquiring about someone’s underlying self.  Interviewers are often trained to ask questions that enable candidates to be more revealing.  If we want to know more about other people, we should too.

This blog was prompted by this article; http://techcrunch.com/2011/05/15/illusion-social-networks/

Stephen O'Donnell is a lifelong recruiter, internet enthusiast, fadgadget and peripatetic writer.

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