Penny For Your Thoughts: Are You More Confident On Social Media Than You Are In Real Life?

June 1, 2015  |  

I’ve always admired women who publicly declare “I’m confident” (or who, even if they don’t say it outright, positively associate themselves with self-confidence in a public way).

Then again, maybe admire isn’t the accurate word.

I certainly smile in my head and think, “Good for her!” whenever I see a woman online hashtagging her way to self-esteem (#BaddestB*tch #KnowImCute #Don’tHateMeCuzMySh*tsTogether #SelfConfidence #SlayingTheGame #FeelingMyself).

If I’m honest, though, sometimes the cacophony of #ImSoConfident hashtags makes me want to type #StopHashbragging.

I certainly do not believe that a woman who is unabashedly confident is somehow a threat to me. I know for sure that another woman shining brightly doesn’t diminish my light. But the investigative journalist in me can’t help but speculate about whether or not her confidence is genuine (or truly evident in the real world).

For example, the following statement is a snippet of something I viewed on my Facebook timeline last week.

“CONFIDENCE is not ‘They will like me’ CONFIDENCE is “I WILL BE FINE IF THEY DON’T”!!!

That was the exact wording, punctuation and capitalization of the status update. The words “CONFIDENCE”  and “I WILL BE FINE IF THEY DON’T” were in all caps for blaring emphasis. The trio of exclamation points were there, presumably, to crank up the volume to the very last notch.

Oh, and there were pictures posted to illustrate the self-assured bravado. In the three photos, the same pretty black woman wore the same midriff-baring top and assumed different poses in each shot. (Her hand was on her hip in the first picture; next, her eyes were playfully glaring at the camera as if to say, “You lookin’ at me?”; and lastly, in the third image, she was tilting her head back in full-bodied laughter.) She truly is beautiful is what I said to myself as I hit the “like” button.  

The “she” in the pictures is my 25-year-old cousin Shaniqua, whom I think of as a quasi-little sister. She makes sure that I’m legitimately hip (as opposed to, say, only appearing as if I’m trying to be hip). I don’t check a lot of Facebook pages regularly, but somehow I end up looking up Shaniqua more often than I search for other folks.

Shaniqua is, by far, the prettiest in our big brood of cousins. Her eyelashes look fake, but they’re real. Her skin looks like she’s always wearing makeup, but she’s not. Her teeth are orthodontist straight though I don’t recall her ever having braces, a retainer or any other dental apparatus. She is, in my opinion, the epitome of “I woke up like this” #Flawless-ness. Browsing through the photos on her Facebook page is, for me, like flipping through the beauty pages of Essence.

The other day, my mom and I were on the phone, and we spent about three or four minutes talking about how beautiful Shaniqua is. I’d mentioned how much I loved seeing Shaniqua’s pictures, and I said something about how her posts are so relentlessly self-assured.  (The word “confident” is literally part of her Facebook name.) My mom exclaimed, “Yes, isn’t she gorgeous?!” And then she paused before saying, “I don’t know if she’s always that confident, though.” My mother wasn’t criticizing Shaniqua or by any means suggesting that she’s all outward bravado and no inner-belief. In fact, anyone who meets my beloved cousin quickly sees that she is grounded and graceful with a great head on her shoulders.

Still, sometimes, you can’t help but wonder if social media appearances are what they seem. At one time or another, we’ve all heard someone preach the “Don’t believe what people do, say or show on Facebook” wisdom. Maybe it was a friend who tried to convince you that a woman’s picturesque wedding photo didn’t mean she and her husband have the blissful relationship that their smiles and coordinating outfits convey (even though you think, based on their look of love, that they’re the winners of the Best Couple Ever Award).

Personally, I don’t believe that our social media lives and our real lives even need to be congruent or match up somehow. I understand that reality is far too complicated to be accurately represented on the Internet. So, of course, we’re all e-imposters online. And, of course, we’re all leaving things something out. There’s always something that we’re explicitly not writing in our status updates or showing in our photos (for any manner of reasons).

Who isn’t guilty of wanting people to see them a certain way? I do wonder, however, if the way we want other people to see us is often the way we want to see ourselves.

Out of curiosity, I scanned my Facebook wall to see if I sounded more confident in my status updates than I do in the real world. While you won’t see a #SoConfident hashtag on my page, you may catch a glimpse of this: a presence of mind.

If I had to give it a hashtag, it would be, #ItsOKandImOK

And, in a weird way, that kind of composure is indeed an upgrade and something I want more of in my daily life. Letting Facebook Penny talk to Real Penny was a fun and eye-opening exercise. You might even try it on your own page sometime. You never know: The more confident social media you might have something to say to the real you.

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