“Filling In” Social Media and Your Other Online Profiles

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by Kristie LeVangie

It never ceases to amaze me about the assumptions I get from people based on who I am and what I do.

“I heard you are a lesbian.”

“You have sex all day.  What do you think?”

“Ask Kristie what that is.  She knows all about that freaky sex shit.”

“So how do you successfully juggle multiple men?”

It took me some time to uncover where these assumptions were coming from.  How did these assumptions get attributed to me? And what do I do about setting these people straight?

I’m a straight (but gay supporting) monogamous woman, who has the same relationship challenges and woes as other women.  I may be more promiscuous than your average woman, but I’m not running amuck humping everything in sight.

Then…Like a grand epiphany, it dawned on me what was REALLY going on here.

Mind_the_gap_2

There’s a theory in psychology called “filling in.”  “The brain uses our surroundings to literally make up what we cannot see, covering the holes with its best guess as to what’s there,” explains The Weekly Show’s website.  (If you follow the link to the website, there are some great visual exercises to help explain the phenomenon.)

I propose that this process of “filling in” is the same process we use  in regards to social profiles.

Bear with me for a minute here…I’m about to get all psychological, philosophical and logical all up in this bitch.

Most of us have two “personas”: our true life one and our online/virtual one.

In most cases, it isn’t our intent to set up our online personas falsely.  We pick the best or most interesting attributes about ourselves and publish them for the world to see.  It would be impossible for us to include each and every detail about ourselves, and in an effort to make ourselves appear more happy, more confident, more secure with the public aspect of it, we omit our worst parts and craft a careful virtual image of ourselves for everyone to see.

It will never reflect our “true life” self, but in our eyes, it crafts the gist of “who” we are.

This part we can control.

What we can’t control is the “filling in” of our virtual friends, potential partners and, sometimes, as in my case, fans.

Perusers of our online profiles will have a natural inclination to take what they do know about us (the things we put out there in our profiles) and fill in the remaining details based on their assumptions, experiences or expectations of what information is missing.

For example, I post a lot of sexually-based news posts about freaky shit going on out there in the world.  (Like this one.)

Now, I may not participate in any type of Looner play, but because I posted this article and even went so far as to research it, I’m automatically attributed an “expert” of fetish because that is what is filled in by my readers.  Or for some, I’m just a downright freak.

This phenomenon especially plays out in the dating world when it comes to online profiles.  The judgment is higher and acceptability among peers is more sensitive.  This could explain the consistent disappointments of “they were nothing like their profile” so often reported by online daters.  Perhaps the tendency to “fill in” based on our previous dating experience is even stronger, so we dupe ourselves by creating an even more distorted view of potential suitors.

(I will note that there are genuine liars and scammers out there.  I am not addressing the deliberate misleading profiles here.  Let’s assume I’m talking about the average Joe or Josephine.)

I haven’t seen any research on this phenomenon being applied to social media profiles, so this is really just my hypothesis.  But I think it makes sense.

Does it to you?

 

 

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One comment

  1. I had two thoughts –

    1) In my case, I maintain a couple of different social media accounts for different subjects. I wonder how somebody fills in my personal identification as opposed to my professional identification or those of my hobby persona . . . (although, like you, it’s not difficult to connect the lines between my accounts since I’m not fully anonymous in any of them.)

    and 2) a retweet of something brilliant. Many choose to create their best selves online. The end result is probably this: “RT @AaronFullerton Wait til those jerks in high school see the sandwich I’m eating (40% of social networking)”

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