Separating Fact From Fiction in the Digital World

How much do you really know about the people you meet? You'd probably be surprised by what your unassuming waitress or grocery store clerk or even your next-door neighbor writes about on their social media pages.
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We are a society of devices. A world of social networking and social media galore.

People are sharing and over-sharing captions of their lives in the virtual world that years ago we would never have been invited to see.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social networking sites can bring personalities to a whole new level. People of all ages can take on personas that they only dreamed about. Why? Simply because they can.

We click before we think and post before we consider the lasting consequences, which is how today's fast-paced social media society works.

Who are they, really?

How much do you really know about the people you meet? You'd probably be surprised by what your unassuming waitress or grocery store clerk or even your next-door neighbor writes about on their social media pages. The slow erosion of privacy we're experiencing in this digital age gives us glimpses into the innermost thoughts and feelings of others, thoughts that we most likely never would have been privy to before Facebook and Twitter made it seem normal for us to broadcast anything and everything to the world at large.

Last spring we read about the San Francisco high school teacher that took to Twitter just before the end of school. She was obviously anxious for school to be out, like many students are, but she must have been having a bad day when she tweeted the following:

Y'all think you hate us teachers? Guess what, we feel the same about some of you. We're just not allowed to show it. #ISecretlyHateYou -- Mrs. Hodges April 18, 2014

This teacher is a great example for reminding us that venting is best kept offline. Don't leave others to wonder who you really are because of something you posted on social media.

Deception and fakers.

It's true, there have been many studies that showvisiting Facebook regularly and watching all your friends and colleagues have these wonderful lives as you just keep puttering along can cause sadness. (Honestly, do we need a study for that?)

But are all of your friends really experiencing the time of their lives?

Are the photos for real?

How exactly do you separate social media fact from social media fiction? Especially when it comes to a person's personal life, it is rather difficult to call them out on their own timeline and say: "Hey, Sally (fake name), I know for a fact your husband is having an affair, your son is smoking dope and you pop pills to sleep at night so you can continue to keep up with this false persona you are inventing!"

Meanwhile, Sally paints the picture of perfection as the family travels to Hawaii, decorates for the holidays and, before we know it, here come those posed family photo shoots.

Who are we to destroy it all with our keystrokes? Who are they to paint the web with lies and illusions?

Another example is the deceptive posters who engage in online dating and believe that posting their photos from a decade ago is appropriate. What do they think will happen when they actually meet someone in person? Most of you have heard of Catfish and how deceptive and scary that is online, however, in reality, it isn't any different than people lying about who they are virtually.

Who does this hurt?

In social media, it hurts the people reading it who believe your life is a wonderful Hollywood fairytale while theirs is mediocre.

In reality, you are only hurting yourself and your family. I am not a psychologist, but it's common sense to realize that until you start confronting your own issues, lying to the world won't make anything better. If you are dating online, you are wasting your time, the time of others and it could even lead to hurting other people.

If you have children, they are also watching you online on your social media sites. If you think for one minute they are not aware of what is really going on inside the walls of their own home, then in reality you are sadly mistaken. Your online behavior is actually teaching them it is okay to pretend to be someone else digitally. Is this what you really want?

Why does it matter?

Honesty should always be a priority online and offline. If life isn't giving you a bowl of cherries, it doesn't mean you aren't part of the cyber-living. People don't seem to understand that it is okay to unplug! Find your friends and family offline and have conversations face-to-face to talk about what is bothering you.

Honesty is a characteristic that parents and grownups need to model for our youth. Many are guilty of embellishing their lives or careers once in awhile, who hasn't bragged about their child or grandchild now and then? However, with the world of social media, we need to pause and remember -- the Internet isn't interested in our family affairs.

Be real.

Of course that doesn't mean you have to stop posting what you are proud of, but use your privacy settings and share with care. Share with people that truly care about you, not with people that barely know you.

The lesson.

Social media has given people a new avenue for communication. It has opened doors for people that otherwise would have never come out of their shells and given empowered voices to those that would have never been heard. Let's not abuse it -- instead, learn to use it with care and respect.

With more people being connected to their devices, it is leaving less time for real human connection. In light of this, isn't it better to present your real self online and develop more genuine connections with those you interact with most?

Ask yourself: Who are you really outside of the digital world? How different are you from your online image?