on who you are online …

Having an online life is kind of confusing.  Who are you online?  When you're online you can have, like, five different personalities … professional you, drunk you, funny you, supportive you, snarky you … You get the picture. 

Anyway, I've been thinking about this a lot lately.  Something came up today to make me think about that even more.  I started online pretty early on in the online revolution.  I've been online for a long time and I've been a member of one particular professional listserv since my very first days on this information superhighway made up of a series of tubes (thank you, Ted Stevens …).  When you think about it, even the idea of being subscribed to a listserv almost seems quaint, huh?  Even to this day, howver, I learn a ton of stuff from the people who inhabit this listserv community and I've gotten to know some of the frequent posters (that is, "know virtually," not in the 3-D world).  Anyway, there is this one person who contributes frequently and often has very thought provoking things to say.  She is fairly opinionated and can be strong in her beliefs, but her postings don't really stray out of the realm of what is considered acceptable on the list.  Here's the thing, about every third year or so she posts something that causes others on the list to "scold" her and she sends out a message along the lines of, "I'm sorry that I have offended people on the list.  As of this point I will never, ever, never, ever, EVER post anything EVER again!!!" 

Each and every time, this causes much hand wringing in the list community and people come out of the woodwork to say how much they have learned from her, beg her not to leave, and to encourage all on the list to be tolerant as we hold hands and sing Kumbaya.

I worry sometimes that the distance of being online can make me really cold and snarky. When I read her message this time around, all that I could think of was, "bye."   Honestly, I'm way more cold and snarky online than I am in the 3-D world.  What I'm trying to decide is whether the good in that outweighs the bad.  I use my online me to vent and snark because I feel like it is something I can't do in the 3-D world.  I think that's good.  I also think, though, that being snarky and mean can also lead me to be snarkier and meaner.  That's not so good. 

That's why online life is confusing … Is it just me? 

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2 thoughts on “on who you are online …

  1. I've been a moderator on a fairly active bulletin board for a few years now, and have seen that a lot. The board admin calls it "committing boardicide". Without exception, the people who put on a big show of leaving have been looking for people to beg them to stay. If no one does, they usually start posting again before long anyway.I wonder too about that separation between the online me and the real-life me. I'm pretty much the same, I guess, although more prone to scatological references in real life than online. Not something to be particularly proud of but there it is.

  2. Based on your comments to my posts, you must be a really nice person (and I'm really not being snarky when I say that). That's really cool! I think that I'm pretty polite in real life and sometimes I just wish that I could just let things go and be nice about things all the time including online. I find that I use my posting to vent and let things go into the ether. Thanks for the thoughtful reply! 🙂

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