Thursday, October 7, 2010
Online Authenticity, Identity, Vulnerability
Our world is changing so much. With blogging and Facebook and Twitter we are able to share more of ourselves with the world and with various types of people, with people we know in different settings, and even with people we don't know at all.
I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday who I'll call S. She recently tried Facebook and then opted out. She realized that she had so many different kinds of friends and family members and decided she wanted her privacy after all. There were people she friended who she knew well and trusted. Then there were the family members that she might not want to share all of her life with. There were people she hardly knew who would also be her Facebook friends. She chose for right now not to expose her life to this wide and diverse group of people. It didn't feel safe for her right now. I completely understand why she did this.
I've been blogging for so many years, and have, over the years, revealed more and more of myself here. Still, there are many things that I haven't revealed. A general standard I use is that if I would be okay with it published on the front page of our town paper or brought up about me in a lawsuit, then it would be okay for me to blog about. The types of things that have fallen into that standard have increased more and more over the years. Now, I don't mind people knowing about me dealing with depression, or having struggles with my weight, or knowing my feelings about any number of things.
Over the years the number and breadth of participants in my online life has expanded. It includes people who are distant relatives, total strangers, people I've worked for, people who have worked for me, estranged family members, close family members, old friends, people from high school, people I dearly love (that's probably YOU), and even one bizarre old-friend-turned-stalker.
I guess the hardest thing is revealing parts of my soul to people who I call "my enemies". Now I know that some of you don't believe in enemies per se, but I consider them people who would be happy at my misfortune. I do have enemies by this definition. Most of these so-called enemies have very little to do with me in my offline life, but then for some reason choose to read my blog. Unnerving. It can be hard to be vulnerable to them. However, over the years as I've let go of much of the shame for being who I am, for admitting the ways in which I'm less than than perfect, I feel comfortable with my enemies knowing my weaknesses and vulnerable areas. For me it is part of learning how to love my enemies. But it has been and continues to be a process.
Another challenging yet beautiful part of having an online identity is integrating the different personas I have. Being just one person, the same in every situation. Not everyone wants to do this, of course. I do. It's scary, but it helps me grow in a direction that's really good for me right now.
Some people do this really successfully and I admire them. They are authentic and revealing. They put themselves out there and don't hold back. I am learning to do this. This doesn't mean that I don't have a private life--because I definitely do. It's just that people can know me in a way that wasn't really possible before to any but my closest friends--and they may at the same time even be a stranger to me. Or they may be a kind and savvy salesperson wanting to know more about me before making a sale (this has happened to me). Or someone coming to work for me in my home (this has happened too). Or they may be my enemy.
Learning to be authentic, having no persona at all, and being vulnerable in chosen ways is very helpful for me in dealing with accepting myself for who I am; I'm not saying it's right for everyone at every time, but just that it's right for me, now. I like being just one real person--me.
What I'm wondering is how you feel about this in your own online life...any insights or even tidbits you might want to share. Not so much about revealing things about other people, but in revealing things about you. I want to learn from you.