It’s a popular but deceptive question: “Are you the same on social media as you are in ‘real life’?” It almost seems rhetorical. It feels as though the answer is “If you’re not, you should be!”
As I’ve thought more about that question, I’ve come to see (aside from the question being flawed from the start) that my answer would be: “I hope not!”
I’ve never met a single person whose personality…
…on social media is the same as face-to-face.
…in public teaching is the same as over coffee one-on-one.
…in their writing is the same as in a private conversation.
We should not expect personality to be the same everywhere.
Our personalities have manifold aspects and intricacies, which each appear in different settings. Every platform, setting, and media lends itself to displaying a different aspect of who we are. We see this with our varied friends. Each brings out various aspects of who we are.
We ought to be slow to judge others as insincere simply because their personality seems different on social media than when we talk with them at work or after church. That’s not necessarily hypocrisy or insincerity. It could be the way a painting changes in different light.
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Notice the accusation that was leveled against Paul: “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” (2 Corinthians 10:10) In other words, he doesn’t come across the same in person as he does on his social media posts (circulatory letters).
Notice his defense: “Let such a person understand that what we say by letter when absent, we do when present.” (2 Corinthians 10:11) Notice what he does not deny and what he does deny with those words:
1. He did not deny that his “his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” He composed magnificent letters but admits he appeared in person “in weakness & in fear & much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom…” (1 Corinthians 2:3-4)
2. He denies that the differences between how he communicate in various contexts equate to hypocrisy, inconsistency, or insincerity. “Let such a person understand that what we say by letter when absent, we do when present.”
The key question then is not “Is your personality the same on social media platforms as it is in real life?” (A faulty question because social media is real life!)
The key question is: “Are you contradicting yourself between platforms? Are you saying something here that you deny over there.”