By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Jan 06, 2015 at 7:34 AM

I remember back in college, I came to the realization that several different versions existed of me. It was an unsettling thought then, and it is now, too.

There was the personality the came out in front of family, the one with my Milwaukee friends, my Washington friends, and even the one when I was alone. It wasn’t about being schizophrenic; rather different inside jokes, shared stories and even vocabulary existed for each group.

It was always confusing when they came together, like when Milwaukee friends visited me in college, because different people knew a different version of me. I struggled with that, and in the end, merging the the versions produced something fake and disingenuous.

The different versions of me continue to this day, but nowhere are they more pronounced than on social media. I embraced Twitter long before Facebook and Instagram, but now active on all three, you’ll experience a totally different Andy Tarnoff if you only look in one place.

Twitter is the liveliest, most self-indulgent version of myself. It’s where I get political at times and where I pull fewer punches on any subject. It’s where I make friends and enemies and do too much self promotion. It’s the most controversial, but it’s also the most amped up: even though my opinions are real, they’re certainly exaggerated. Because, unlike Facebook, where you’re speaking to your friends, you’re speaking to the whole world via Twitter – and working to enhance your brand. My brand, of course, is owner of and passionate Milwaukee guy. Even when I’m a jerk, I usually like the polarizing Twitter version of myself more than any other.

Then there’s Facebook, where everyone strives to make themselves look perfect. This version of me is much more personal. This is where I share all the family stuff that I wouldn’t put in front of strangers. Understand that I’m very selective of who I "friend," because I get more than enough anonymous trash talking through Twitter. On Facebook, I avoid politics and bragging, for the most part. I try not to complain, because we all know those people in our feed. In some ways, Facebook is more real. This is the version of me that I wish I was.

With Instagram, I’m only trying to accomplish two goals: to take good photos and to make people laugh. Nothing controversial here. With a much smaller audience, it’s an awful lot of cat and dog photos and funny license plates. I really like Instagram, because there’s just no stress to be awesome. Just shoot and upload and let the results speak for themselves. This is certainly the most artistic version of me.

Finally, there’s the OnMilwaukee version of me. That doesn't count as social media, but certainly it’s a public persona, and unfortunately, it’s the hardest place to be prolific anymore. Twitter has definitely decreased my writing output, but most dramatically in the blog space. Where I used to pound out 600 words on any old topic, now I get the same effect in 140 characters. I’ve become much more mellow and toned down within the pages of my own product, and the less fun stuff that comes with running a business has taken away a lot of time for journalistic pursuits. Strange as it may sounds, the version of me is a the most boring.

Still, if you follow all these digital versions of me, you get a sense of the real me – although since I’m actually a private person, believe it or not, the truest version of myself is reserved for friends and family offline.

Sure, it can get complicated keeping my multiple personalities separate, and sometimes they do blend together. It would be great to live in a world where we didn’t need alter egos, though, where we could always be the most genuine versions of ourselves, all the time. But as we get more "social," we’re also forced to be more segmented, and maybe less real. It’s too bad, actually.

#firstworldproblems, right?

How about you? Where’s your true you?

Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.