Violet Whitney
Mar 16, 2017 · 3 min read

How social media sculpts human personality

So I always had this issue of balancing my personalities between parents, siblings, Mormon relatives, juvenile friends, teachers, classmates, coworkers, and bosses. We have these expected reputations we have to uphold, and I’ve always hated it. I end up wondering, who am I hiding, and who am I really when I’m not trying to be someone. I suppose my personality is truly just a conglomerate of how I want to respond to people’s expectations of me, society’s expectations of me, and my own expectations for myself.

I remember when I got my first professional job, I realized for the first time how different I had to behave around different groups of people in varying environments. I felt as though I was putting on an act. We are all actors to a degree. I was an 18 year old working as a receptionist in professional firm greeting high profile clients (even John McCain) to develop million dollar buildings. During my 8–5 I answered phones in a calm collected professional voice and made sure not to ever mention that I was living with my boyfriend at a ridiculously young age, had moved out of my house before 18 and other less than professional aspects of my life. In the evenings and on the weekends I went home to a dirty apartment which I shared with three boys my age, one who was living on the couch. The apartment was littered with beer cans from weeknight parties my roommates would host (which was all underage drinking). In the evenings they would smoke pot, play video games, and host parties. I have a particular memory of being so angry when the house was full of high schoolers and I had to work the next day. I came back to a packed house of rowdy teenagers and remember the worry I felt of having the responsibility of all of these underage drinkers. I felt like I could literally see the carpet change color as people spilled beer and walked across it in their dirty shoes. At that point I always got hounded as being too uptight, when I didn’t want to party on weeknights, or being too responsible if I didn’t want high schoolers in the house. I was worried about upholding a good reputation at work and being on time, not getting in trouble so my parents wouldn’t worry about me, and not being uptight so my friends wouldn’t think I was a total “slave to the man”. I was juggling my behavior and struggling to uphold so many disparate roles.

Now that the Internet and sites like Facebook exist, our lives and personalities are so public. I wonder in what ways it will impact society. I wonder if professional environments will become more casual as a result of our bosses seeing our home lives more intimately via Facebook. I think the more interesting question is: what will this do to people’s personalities? Will we become more ourselves as we expose all aspects of our lives and become a more unified mix of the different personalities we portray? Or is this in a sense less like ourselves? We are now forced to abide by all expected reputations 24/7, managing our image online like politicians would.

So I guess the real question is: what is a personality, and who is a person truly?

How can the Internet further promote an environment where we can be more true to ourselves, and become more of who we really are? As we expose our different personalities to different groups, how can we be as genuine as possible?

Violet Whitney

Written by

Spatial tech, design computation, organizational behavior, equity, and gifs. Adjunct Assist Professor @ColumbiaGSAPP. PM, @SidewalkLabs.

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