Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The egotistical side of blogging

One of the most basic facts of human nature is that almost everyone thinks they are better than average... prettier, smarter, funnier than that dull person lying at the mean. Sure, we all have our admitted weaknesses (I surely fall into the category of less coordinated or athletic than average, and we know very well about the concept of low self-esteem), but generally, we are pretty convinced of our exceptionality.
These perceptions, of course, are fallacies, because where are these average people, or God forbid, below average people, if they are not you or me or any of my friends or the guy down the hall.

We also have a tendency to assume that most people pay more attention to us than they do. Of course they notice our good hair day, our undone fly, our great purse, our slip of the tongue-- even though we are too busy picturing the guy beside us noticing our the spinach in our teeth to pay attention to his mismatched socks... and he is too worried about his mismatched socks to notice the spinach in your teeth.

As a constant people watcher, I'm always putting myself in the people's heads who are hypothetically watching me. What stories do they concoct as I walk by, I wonder. What do they first notice about me?

This shameless self-absorption seeps into my blog-related ponderings. How do people perceive me through my words? Do they picture me looking a certain way? Does the real life me fit with the character of me they have formed? When I first meet a person who I know solely through a computer screen, or we share Facebook profiles, I have to resist bombarding them with questions about the contrast between their expectations and the reality of me.

The reality, of course, is that they haven't bothered concocting a total personality for me. Sure, we all have expectations that we have formed through following a person's life through their words. For instance, I have been told that my personality matches my blogging style remarkably well (something I find strangely reassuring), and that I looked less geeky than expected (a bit of a relief... it is nicer to be an internal than an external geek).
Similarly, people have looked differently than I imagined (e.g., Libby? Is gorgeous! Not that I didn't expect her to be pretty... just not in the same way!). Despite knowing that Ultra Toast was British, I found it unexpectedly odd when he spoke with a British accent. But I hadn't imagined such a detailed picture of him as to be surprised by his choice of lunch or a particular mannerism-- just as people probably don't wonder that much about my favourite band or my eye colour.

But, still, I am curious about what others think regarding the contrast between the identity we present on our computer screen and the day-to-day, real life person we are. What do you think we would be most surprised to find out about you? What was the most unexpected thing you found out about a fellow blogger's real life self? Or have you found people's identities to generally match?


Anonymous said...

I am so like this too! It's so frustrating and time consuming but I can't stop myself :)

Crushed said...

I guess the longer you read someone's blog, the better the picture of them you get.

But I still think we can get set off on false images we create ourselves in our heads.

I guess we're often right about the persona, but the covering of that persona, the face the world sees?

Probably not, quite often.

What we see in blogs is somewhat different.

t.k.foster said...

The trouble is that if people don't have high views of who they are, it gets them nowhere. I've failed job interviews where I was told I needed to "be more arrogant." It's almost like others are only attracted to others that are as narcissistic as they are. It's sad, yes, but when it seems to be the attitude that is the only path to success, what is one to do?

Be different? But then, if that's the case, you would actually be superior which is maybe what we all don't want to see in others?

the almost right word said...

I have yet to meet any blogger in real life (aside from those who I knew before the blog). I often wonder about these questions, especially since, as a more "anonymous" blogger, I don't post pictures of myself or use my name. I certainly wonder what assumptions readers have made about me.

dmb5_libra said...

hehe, i've only met a few bloggers in real life...and i have to say that they matched their blogs

nicoleantoinette said...

People probably don't run into this discrepancy with me because I'm not an anonymous blogger. But I've definitely had the moments where I see a picture of a blog friend for the first time and think "wow, that's so not what I pictured!" It isn't ever in a bad way, just... surprising?

Matt said...

I picture you as that little south park person...is that not what you look like?

JessWrites said...

Hmmm... this is a really interesting post. I don't know how I come off on my blog... probably as a nerd. I don't think I'm as nerdy in person as I seem on my blog. If you guys saw me at the bar, I doubt you would ever know it was me. Then again, maybe you would.

WKC said...

What would you be most surprised to find out about me? If I told you, that would ruin the surprise, wouldn't it?

Though I have been told that I talk in real life exactly as I write.

Anonymous said...

Ha ha. You know exactly what my perceptions were of you before we met. :)

I think I come across as more serious than I actually am on my blog. Though lately, it's about all the same.

*scurries off to kill headache*

Maxie said...

I feel like my blog reflects who I am pretty well, but I do wonder about it every time I meet a new blogger face to face.

brandy said...

I've written about something similar before... I always worry that I come across as unintelligent, or a goody two-shoes. Which is funny, because I curse like a sailor sometimes in 'real life' but I have a hard time making the switch and actually typing a swear when I write. It just doesn't usually enter my brain.

With that said, the bloggers that I've got to know in 'real life' seem like an enhanced version of their blog- they are even funnier, more charming and thoughtful than their words give them credit for. Such revelations make me think the blogging world is a good place to be, even on a bad day.

Anonymous said...

I didn't meet a blogger-yet- but I met someone who I had much in common with and had chatted with last year. He was not exactly what I expected but it turns out...he was better.

As for me, I have no idea what people think. I have posted pics and frankly, they're not terribly flattering. :)

Alexa said...

i think people would be surprised that i don't drink as much as it seems like i do on my blog.

i may go out and have a blast - but that doesn't stop be from only having one glass on wine and still being in bed by 10:30 : )

Bayjb said...

I think some people might be surprised that I'm not as materialistic as I appear on my blog. And that while I'm funny in person, I'm actually pretty insecure at times.

Daisy said...

I have an overly active imagination and I always wonder what people look like, what their oddities are, and how they dress. I am often surprised when I see pictures of other bloggers.

However, I plaster pictures of myself all throughout my posts and so even though everyone knows what I look like, it doesn't stop them from having very different ideas about who I really am. I have been told several times that I'm much less stuck-up than they expected. Hmm ... RUDE! lol. But good I guess?

I wonder how often what someone imagines about me says more about them than me.

Caz said...

"One of the most basic facts of human nature is that almost everyone thinks they are better than average... prettier, smarter, funnier than that dull person lying at the mean."
^^This? YEah AB looked at me like I was seriously psycho the other day when I mentioned that in general I think I'm smarter than the average population. I know I'm below average in many things, but intelligence wise, I think I've got it pretty good. Regardless, he seemed to portray that NORMAL people don't think like that, and that I was pretty stuck up to think so.
Glad to know I'm not alone!!!

Anonymous said...

I always wonder about people too, especially bloggers who don't use photos of themselves because there's quite a bit of mystery there.

That said, I've never met a blogger "in real life" (as if we're mythical creatures!) so I can't really say as far as expectations go.

I have no idea what people think of me either. They might be surprised to find out...I actually have a lighter, sillier side.

Anonymous said...

I actually think I'm pretty ridiculous, because almost no one I imagine is actually like the person I've formulated in my head. I'm really bad at reading people through words, but it could just be that I'm extremely idealistic and imagine everyone with pretty teeth and flawless skin. I, of course, am not like that, but I'm disappointed when others aren't. I'm not quite sure why I felt the need to disclose this much information to you, but it's alright. You won't judge me, right? ;)

Most of the time, I am oblivious to the fact that others can see me. Of course, I am an avid people watcher myself, so I should be more aware, but I'm not.

It does piss me off that about 85% or so of people say that they are better than average drivers. Seriously? No, they're not. That's impossible.

Dorky Dad said...

I like to think that I don't have a high view of myself, but then I realize that, yes, when it comes to some things (and blogging isn't it) I definitely have a high view of myself.


Surfergrrl said...

Well first I don't consider myself to be better, prettier, etc. I tend to aim low I guess, but I consider myself to be just...average. In any case, I'm not sure I've been too surprised. But, I remember when we did that video for Dana, and she responded with a video response, and she spoke her name like, Dan-uh. Also, I was surprised that toast thought I had this kind of LA thing going on. I'm the least coolest person I know. ha ha

wee-h said...

Concocting stories about people around us one of my man and I's favourite pastimes. Although it tends to be on the evil side, so id expect the same to be said about me too.

I guess i come across as confident, but actually im pretty shy and blogging doesnt come naturally most of the time!

benjibopper said...

on the high self-perception, i dont think that's always true. i think it happens most often when we come from certain privileges, so we expect to be smart, articulate, what-have-you. self-esteem issues seem to attack the poor most voraciously, like most other nasty things.

anyway, that aside, fascinating post. i've only met one blogger in the person, and that also happened to be Ultra Toast, and I too found myself oddly surprised by his accent. he writes so american. that's nonsense of course but that's the impression i had.

not sure what would surprise people about me. probably my devastatingly good looks, wit, charm, and astounding athletic ability.

Z said...

Me too! Me too! ;) (Just had to jump on the self-absorbed bandwagon, because... Yeah. Totally)

I wonder how I come off via blog, I really do. Like me? Like a part of me? Or not like me at all? I have no idea how I am perceived, so I cannot compare to how I really am. I think that most people would probably expect me to be a little more verbal, outgoing, whatever in person than I am - because I am painfully shy when meeting new people. I'm better after I get to know you, but still on the quiet side. But maybe this comes out via blog? I don't know.

As for meeting other people - I haven't met too, too many in person. But so far, I must say they have all pretty much lived up to my expectations. Except one. She? Was waaaaaaay different than I'd imagined. Not in a good or a bad way, just in an "I'd never have pictured that!" way. Actually, while I love her blog, I don't think I'd be IRL friends with the person who I imagined wrote it - but her IRL person? I could totally be friends with. So, I guess that is different in a good way. Hm.

And enough with the long comment ;) I'll leave it at that!

Princess Pointful said...

Hey folks...
Just to expand on the first point a little. This is actually a pretty consistent finding in social psychological research on self-enhancement-- that people tend to think they are better than average on most positive traits. Interestingly, studies have also shown they are more willing to say they are similar to others in their weaknesses, though. I don't want to turn my blog into a nerd fest, but I do have references if anyone is interested!

One thing I should have been clear about, though, is this is a pretty Western phenomena-- not so much in some other cultures, as you can probably imagine.
Sadly ethnocentric of me.

Anonymous said...

i wonder the same thing ... and since we have actually met, we must swap opinions and thoughts and what not - if only to feed our own egos and/or endless questions :)

like i agree with what other people have told you. your writing is very congruous with your personality! which i think is one of the greatest compliments someone who blogs can probably receive. and physically - i don't think i was expecting anything in particular(!) - but i remember when we first met, thinking that you were super cute/pretty and i wasn't surprised? haha - maybe it was all the many emails/comments and talking about our walk down the aisle we had already shared.

this is already the longest comment ever but lately, i've been thinking about how much of a chameleon i can be - adapting my personality or my appearance too easily depending on where i am or who i'm with. sometimes, i wonder if that's just a manifestation of wanting to be above average ... but not too above average?

Yoda said...

Its simple really.

You have to learn how to Use The Force, and you will be able to peer into people's blog and instantly know who they are in real life.

Paula said...

I haven't met any fellow bloggers but I imagine I would find it very unsettling to meet them IRL!

Katelin said...

i think i have been the most surprised with bloggers voices. simply because that is one thing you can never really picture. but definitely a nice surprise every time.

Jenn said...

I definitely think I'm more interesting than I really am. I also crack myself up so I expect others to consider me to be just as hilarious.

I think that my blog reflects me pretty well though. There's not much that I hide, exaggerate or embellish on. I could be wrong though. I see myself differently than others see me.

Psychgrad said...

I'll join the geek fest...just to say that these self-enhancing beliefs don't seem to apply to people in collectivistic cultures, where most people thing that they are below average.

I do wonder if I come off differently in person than on my blog. I've only met one blogger and didn't actually ask about it (for similar reasons of not wanting to be annoying).

I tend to put bloggers into groups...kind of like high school. I've always put you into the cool crowd - the type that will mesh well with many different types of people.

ToughGirl101 said...

Ha! i'm really not as cocky or confident as my blog makes me sound. And that's the truth.But don't tell anyone. It'll ruin my rep.

Dexter Colt said...

I have never met a fellow blogger. Talked to them, yes. Met, no.

But, let me be the first one to say that I am not anyone special. I am not even a mere blip on the RADAR screen of life. Just a ship passing in the night.

If anyone ever thought that I thought I was something special...then they misjudged me.

And, your first sentence is spot on. Most people do tend to give themselves more credit than they've earned.

Anonymous said...

I love this post!! we are such a judgemental society and true, very self-absorbed. It's such an honest piece and confession. we all think that way and wallow in our own self-concern except that no one's brave enough to admit it. I think most people(including myself)build a very high and mighty portrait of themselves. But let's face it, wouldnt we rather read about embarrasing stories and more relatable topics?

Gledwood said...

I would alter the 1st paragraph to say likes to think...

brookem said...

i wonder about this often too. the bloggers i have met, or have a close friendship with yet haven't met yet- i have found that their blogging style matches their personality. i often wonder whether the way i write portrays me in the way that someone who knows me in real life knows me. hmm...

the frog princess said...

If it's any consolation, I have never imagined you as looking geeky.

What I find interesting is that I picture all of my blog-friends as highly attractive. Perhaps my subconscious equates an attractive personality with an attractive exterior?

And for those of you who met--yes, you've lived up to my expectations ;)

Mrs4444 said...

It never occurred to me that someone's personality in real life would not match that of his/her blog. That's an interesting concept. An odd one, too.

I picture you of healthy weight, wearing contemporary frames. Am I right?

The IT Girl said...

I've always thoguht that my blog reflects my personality. I've yet to meet other bloggers that I know from their blogs alone (every blogger I've met I've known beforehand). But I'm with Crushed - I guess the more you read, the better you get to know someone.

eric1313 said...

Not having met a blogger in real life (I could have but things were a wreck at the time...) I haven't had a chance to form and answer to your question.

Whenever I read Ultra Toast's blog, I totally picture the British accent.

And as for you young lady, I have already formed the picture of a kinda country girl (not a hick, mind you) who has slipped into the city and done well to adjust and thrive and excel. I picture a sweet-hearted person who has a very intelligent sense of humor and can talk for hours about a horizon of diverse subjects.

As for me, I'm the one who would disappoint. You'd be like "how can a person be that skinny and still be alive???" Well, maybe not you, you are too nice to ever say that or even think it (except for a second in order to dismiss it), but others would. You'd probably take me to a fast food place and encourage me to eat, which I have no problem doing since I have the metabolism of a cheetah on amphetamines. Old joke, yes, but accurate.

See? we even share the same too-sharp opinions and observations about ourselves.

But, if you met me and I had an electric guitar in ahnd and a microphone, you'd see that I am a holy terror. If you sat at a bar with me (i like sitting at a the bar, something is sadly romantic about being a barfly on a stool...) I'd crack you up with some terribly crude jokes and you'd have to convince yourself and others that I'm actually a poet.

And I have a million and one anecdotes, digressions and various other tales to relate.

Those are my good points. (?)


had to put the question mark there.... obligatory... just totally representative of my own lurking self-doubt.

I'm so happy to be back home, got back last night. I'll be writing a lot more.

Talk to me sometime, I miss our conversational snippets.

you know it. Off to bed for me.

peace out

eric1313 said...


And yes, I am not going to promise or swear to write, I'm going to write.

It's going to be excellent.

A new level shall be reached.

Just look at the progress I've made... (yes, even i see it) My writing was good but technically on the atrocious side when I started, filled with poor usage and typos galore. I'm still far from perfect, but I'm going to edge closer to it.

Not many others do I talk to this candidly.

Hey, if we ever meet at a bloggie convention, you can charge me a fee for using your professional listening services. :) I do talk to a lot of people and some of them I am very close with, but you are unique. I disclose too much, and you are infinitely forgiving of that.

I just hope (and always do, if you could not tell) that I crack you up pretty good in the process. Especially at inappropriate times, and people have to ask 'what is it?' and you say 'oh, nothing, just something I read'.

No other objective needs meeting.

take care

and hope ya don;t mind the long post script