I have a reputation amongst my friends as being a serial de-tagger. I am very fussy about which photos make the cut and de-tag myself from any photo which makes my face look a) pointy (yes, right now I am too thin, don't nag), b) insanely pale or c) just makes me look a bit weird. And unfortunately, this encompasses about 75% of the photos which seem to appear on facebook, which may or may not have something to do with the fact that the cameras only ever seem to come out after a few cocktails when, let's face it, no-one looks their best. Particularly me, because I am particularly unphotogenic at the best of times and whilst I'm hardly stunning, I don't think I'm that ugly? Or at least, I'm not as ugly as certain photos make me appear.
But I'm still not sure why I de-tag photos. My friends who would look at those photos were there on that night so they are fully aware what I look like, so who am I trying to kid? Why do we become obsessed with the virtual representation of ourselves and why do we try to present this perfect image?
I guess that is the joy of the online world, or the downside, depending on which way you look at it. You can be whoever you want to be, present a more refined, pleasant version of yourself which to a potential friend/partner (if you're into the online dating scene) will make you seem more appealing. But at the same time, we all know those who take it too far; Those who upload old photos to dating sites; those who lie to get attention.
I have had far too many experiences of those in my past. As a teenager growing up with few IRL friends, I found solace in an online forum. I had many friends there and no matter what had happened in my day, they would be there. They saved me during dark times, cheered me up and made me realise my own worth. They gave me what little confidence I had at that time and to most of them, I will always owe them that.
There were two girls, however, who were not who they said they were. One girl, "Daisy", told us of how her Dad died as a consequence of something she did, her step Dad sexually abused her and she was hardly ever fed or looked after. She turned out to be a girl from a very affluent family who had both parents, lived in a large house and had horses. And she had never been abused.
She was one of my closest friends and the day I found out, I was crushed. We all put our guards up that day, realising how misleading someone could be over the internet and swore we'd never be taken in again.
Then another girl, "Sarrah", came along. She seemed lovely, was a single parent who had been orphaned at 13. She had cancer, and was struggling to raise her daughter as well as work to pay her hospital bills. She turned out to be a fraud too, and was using someone else's pictures. The girl whose photos she used found out and set up a facebook group to inform us all but we never found out who she really was. I wasn't so affected by this but it was still a shock. What sort of person would lie like that, and what were they getting out of it?
I guess no matter how hard we try, no matter how careful we try to be, we can never be truly sure of who we are speaking to online. After all, we all inadvertently censor what we say or post sometimes and so the online world will never quite be a fair representation of reality. And yet, when so much of our day and social lives revolve around social networking, could we even work out where reality ends and the falsities of the internet begin?
Food for thought.