Once entering the online world we have the tendency to believe that we are leaving the real world behind us. The woman or man typing and building up a profile online remains the same in both environments. Therefore, she or he brings an offline personality and personal history while expressing thoughts online.
The confusion comes from a very realistic fact. Human beings absorb almost 80% of communication messages via nonverbal cues. Edward T. Hall, an anthropologist in the nonverbal communication field, believes that most of the communication cues we receive come from eye contact, gestures, even the way we dress ourselves, among others nonverbal cues. This fact might be among the several reasons why some social network users believe that online communication and reality are not connected. Offline communication allows us to understand most of the communication cues passed by other people. Posts and online chats without webcams have communication cues limited to written words by the one delivering the message. On the other hand, photos and videos might provide non-verbal cues to online communication enhancing the understanding process of these messages.
Another important aspect to analyze, it is the fact that we do bring from our offline environment our thoughts and preferences to the online environment. When it comes to adding friends to a social network, users have the tendency to add people who they already know and access content that they usually have interest in their offline lives. Researches have shown that users particularly have more interest in connecting with people from the offline environment, such as described by Hargittai, “…people often use these services [social networks] to connect with those in their existing networks, rather than to see out new friends and acquaintances” (Hargittai 283).
Moreover, even though some social network users might not portrait themselves in similar ways in both ‘worlds’, they do bring their own offline tastes and thoughts to build up this online personality. In dating sites, users try to establish relationships by searching for potential partner’s traits they usually find interesting in their real lives. As a result, the main goal is to bring from the online environment someone to join their offline lives, as described by Ellison and Boyd where “in same contexts, an online identity is explicity linked to an off-line presence” (Ellison and Boyd 158). All the examples listed above come to the conclusion that both worlds can be separated; and the offline world has the power to dictate trends and preferences in the online environment.