NCTE Reflection Part 2
I’ve been blogging for a long time. I’ve been online for a long time. I’ve been in the classroom (as a student) for a long time (only more recently as a teacher). Starting to see these various threads of my life interweave has been fascinating over the past year or two. I started to blog in college during my freshman year. It was completely personal at first (I had to keep up with my high school friends somehow) but it grew slowly into something I didn’t fully understand until much later. I might also add that I was a chemistry, and not an English, major to start out; I didn’t consider myself a “writer” a “blogger” or anything of the sort. I may have admitted to being someone who simply enjoyed words and occasionally took the opportunity to brag about spelling p-n-e-u-m-o-n-o-u-l-t-r-a-m-i-c-r-o-s-c-o-p-i-c-s-i-l-i-c-o-v-o-l-c-a-n-o-k-o-n-i-o-s-i-s when it suited the nerdiness of my audience.
While sharing stories through my blogs on LiveJournal and Xanga was important, I started to notice something emerging: a new version of myself. I started to see patterns first in other people whom I knew in person. I saw friends whose online versions of themselves were much different than how I considered them to be in “real life.” People whom I viewed as patient, tolerant, and intelligent were being broadcast as vapid, sloppy, and crude. Was schizophrenia going around? Had my friends accounts been hijacked by hackers? My identity theories evaporated quickly as I started to see some of the same confusion in my own writing. What kind of voice was I projecting into this freely available format? During my non-education blog’s tenure I explored this question in a collaborative session with several other bloggers.
Today, my hindsight offers a newly threaded needle with which to seam this question. A voluntary mass-exposure through years of social media has been my own trial by fire. Through every post, tweet, update, ping, or blip of information I’ve been stitching my digital identity. Just recently I’ve started using a photograph of myself on Twitter instead of the comic avatar I had previously. People have spoken often, in the public forums I frequent, about authenticity of action. What does it mean to be authentic in how you conduct yourself online?
I answer that question by going back to my initial blog conundrum. If you wouldn’t say something in real life to your boss, mom, children, or to complete strangers then don’t write it online. Anywhere.
The NCTE 2009 Convention brought public and private identities from around the country together in one venue for one long weekend of learning. It was a significant opportunity for me to experience the digital identity theories that were floating around in my head. I was planning on meeting people face-to-face from Twitter, the English Companion Ning, and a variety of education blogs. I couldn’t wait to compare my preconceived notions of their voices, demeanors, and attitudes. As excited as I was about meeting so many people, I was felt a little bit of trepidation regarding how others would view me and weigh any disparities in my digital and real selves.
If “variations of the self” is too deep for you to ponder while you speed-read your RSS feed (as I often do) then consider this: How much would a person recognize you in person after only reading you online?