There are so many examples of people all over the world that use different types of social networks to post a myriad of things to the rest of the world. Some people post to the whole world that they are incredibly happy or in crisis for all to see while others even find ways to have affairs through Facebook, Twitter and My Space. But mostly it seems that these social networks are a place for each person to express revolving emotions, daily gripes of personal happenings, a commentary of life choices and perhaps even a place to create a façade.

I recently went to a neighborhood function and met several of my neighbors that I had never gone beyond the typical wave of hello, or goodbye. We talked all night about various topics and Facebook was one of those topics that inevitably came up. “Are you on Facebook? We could be ‘friends.’

One neighbor said that he thought Facebook was an alter ego. When I asked him what he meant, he explained that what he knows of some ‘friends’ where their lives are dramatically different from what they post on their social network. He continued to explain that Facebook is a great place to develop an ‘alter ego’ for the whole world to see what they want seen, rather than their real persona, and feelings.

So what is the real nature of social networks? Are they a place to hide? Or are they a place to be seen? Are they a place to expose your reality? Or a place to create an alternate one?

The answer? All of the above.

An interesting discussion that touched home started with the discontent that my little brother felt as I had posted a link to an article I had written on my blog on Facebook. It was a correlation between the politics of our family with the politics of our nation. My little brother seemed to think that it was a well-written article but that since I used my own family as an example (in a tactful manner I might add), he showed huge discontent. He used the argument that it was appropriate to post this article on my blog for the whole world to see but that it was inappropriate that the link was on my Facebook page. He didn’t like that my truthfulness about our divided family should be made public to ‘friends’. It was clear he wanted our mutual family and friends to see an “alternate” truth rather than the reality I had exposed in my article. The discussion ended with us agreeing to disagree and my article remained right where I left it.

However, I did spend some time pondering the subject as he brought an interesting perspective to the table. It actually made me rethink the credibility of these social networks. It made me rethink the amount of stuff I read daily. Is this an accurate snapshot of people's lives? Or is it just a place to play the game and post what you want the world to see? As a user myself I can honestly say that I am careful about what I post. I don't go into any detail and I inspire discussion of views and opinions, I don't spend my time on Facebook digging deeper into anyone’s private thoughts, even if they do post them for all to read. I find that most of the content in my circle of 143 'friends' is just daily fodder. There is great value in these sound bites and that is the connection and the human need to feel accepted, and tied to a sense of community. I have friends that make me laugh every day on Facebook and I would feel a loss if they stopped posting. I have found that Facebook, when used with caution (especially with young ones), can be a great place to reach out and be heard.

Technological advances give us this ability to remain close, but just far enough away from each other. It gives us the ability to vent, ask questions of our peers and to live a sense of voyeuristic reality with all of the people in our contact list. It is a place to hide. It is a place to be seen. It is a place to create and to even destroy. It is just as we want it to be.

Author's Bio: 

Sarah was born in Boston, MA, raised in New York City and graduated from the University of Connecticut with two degrees. She obtained her degrees in Communications and Psychology. Through her own personal tragedies and struggles Sarah married young and had two beautiful girls. Even though her marriage failed, her devotion to her graduate education and her girls was unsurpassed. With her Masters in Business Administration (MBA) in analyzing foreign markets, and a new career opportunity in MD, she moved to MD where she met and fell in love with Enrique. Today, Sarah lives in Maryland with her husband and their children, researching, writing and publishing articles and books.