It seems like a new platform for connecting with and finding friends emerges each week. With the introduction of every new social-networking site, our means of self-expression change and we're presented with yet another opportunity to reinvent our identities for the virtual world. How closely our Facebook personalities are to our Twitter or Tumblr personalities is completely arbitrary — and the connection between those personas and our real selves is another story entirely. It may be shady to exaggerate your true self online, but given the opportunity to become virtually anyone with or without the problems you're grappling with, why not tweak yourself?
A recent survey done by OnePoll revealed that over 33% of women lie about their lives at least once a month over social media. The fear of being seen as boring or not having much to say were the main catalysts behind their dishonesty. The world of online diaries began with LiveJournal, but eventually its popularity plummeted and Facebook took over. A platform for honest expression without the pressure to please followers and "friends" disappeared, because honestly, who's really spilling their heart on Facebook these days?
The folks behind Pencourage realized this and ran with it. "Imagine if you could read other people's thoughts," the site prompts us. Internet users who just want to unload their lives online now have the opportunity to freely express their trials and tribulations in a community that's both supportive and eager to listen. Having only launched two months ago, the new social-media website has garnered over 3,000 users and well over 4,000 posts. Pencourage markets itself as the "anti-social" media website on account of the honesty its users pour into their posts. They want their community to be comprised of real individuals, not fabricated personas. While this is all endearing on paper, we can't help but notice the parallels to Facebook and Tumblr when we scrolled through it.
In an attempt to forego the quest for online validation, Pencourage hypocritically enables it. Under each diary-like entry, there is a space for other users to comment on the post. Users can also see the exact number of people who read their article. "We work very hard presenting ourselves to the world online, pretending and attempting to be happy all the time which is exhausting and ultimately unfulfilling," says Dr. Michael Sinclair of City Psychology Group. True, but we can't help but find it odd that a site founded on the principle of sharing honest lives over digitally fabricated ones would even provide the option to comment on a diary post. And while they may not want to validate posts with likes and comments, offering information on who's read the article effectively does just that. Who's to say that as the site grows, users will start to exaggerate or omit parts of their lives to make it seem like their lives are more or less fulfilling than they really are, so they can get more reads or comments? There's already a popularity contest in the works with the "Most Popular" tab that shows the site's top posts.
"Omitting the less-desirable imperfections of our lives from the conversations with our 'friends' online leads to less opportunity to feel empathised with — resulting in a greater sense of disconnection from others," Sinclair continued. In our book, a friend is someone who doesn't mind knowing the "less desirable" parts of your life — and whether or not they approve, they'll do more than show you with just the click of a mouse. Call us old-fashioned, but nothing really compares to meeting for coffee and having an honest conversation unchained from the "like" button that haunts our sense of self-worth online. (The Daily Mail)
Photo: Courtesy of Pencourage.