Wednesday, March 05, 2008

I thought I was someone else, someone good.

or A long-winded explanation of why I'm not on Facebook.

A person can not be all things to all people, but we make an effort to be different things to different people. This starts as a child when you adopt a different persona - usually a different dialect - when in the company of your peers to the one you use in the company of your parents, with further adjustments made for teachers, siblings, grandparents and so on. It's not that you are pretending to be someone you are not (although you might do that as well). Instead you are, quite genuinely, more than one person.

I thoroughly reject the idea of a single authentic self. Not that all selves are equal. Some are extremely hard work, others so uncomfortable it hardly seems worth the effort and still others can be terribly treacherous. However, it strikes me as a cornerstone of self-knowledge to recognise this stuff. We need to know who we are before we can be who we want to be, as it were. And nobody is the same individual in the office as in the bedroom as behind the wheel of a car. If they are, they might have a problem...

Anyone who has a written identity should know this. Anyone who writes informal letters or e-mails, who posts on forums and messageboards, and certainly anyone who keeps a blog or diary, even a private diary that nobody else gets to see.

I remember the shock of reading through my diaries age 12-14 years old. I recalled that I wrote down my inner thoughts and recorded events for no eyes but my own. I could remember shaming aspects of the diaries like my acne-maps, where I charted the progress of spots on my face like constellations. However, the whole style of my writing was mortifying. Even in that most private of universes, I was trying to be a particular sort of somebody. Cooler perhaps, or cleverer than I could carry off. And for whom?

Now when I blog, I know that I am writing as a particular sort of somebody. Difference is that I am she. It is not the same I or she as exists elsewhere; clearly I am more articulate here than I am in speech, there are certain subjects that I am more honest about here, and other subjects I feel able to talk about with more passion than I might elsewhere. That having said, the Goldfish is far less considerate to her audience than I am in real life, since you all have the freedom to come and go without offending any social norm; if I am sat beside you on a park bench, I'm not going to enter into a lecture about whatever happens to be on my mind today, since you might not feel able to leave if you're not interested.

One issue that has recently come up is that my Granny Kelly is getting on-line. Granny and I have a very close relationship and she knows me very well but in twenty-seven years, I have never sworn in her company, never said as much as a bloody or an arse. And of course I swear here, in writing, sometimes quite a bit. Without having lied to anyone, or pretended to be something that I'm not, I am still threatened by the clash of two identities. Of course, Granny might not be nearly so naive as I imagine, but I did struggle to write an entire post on cats without a single pussy joke.

Anyway, the issue with Facebook is the great variety of people who use it. There'd be no point being the Goldfish on Facebook because I am the Goldfish here. So I'd have to carve out yet another identity, one which is acceptable to family members on Facebook, various real friends (as in people who are really my friends as opposed to all the people who get called "friend" in these circumstances) as well as various people who know me somehow or did know me at some point. Given the variety of people who have talked about Facebook, this would be an all things to all people role - unless I had several accounts.

And that's of course the big problem with Facebook; if you use your real name and allow others to find you, then you don't only have to take into account a much greater variety of your acquaintances than you usually have to deal with, but also anyone who knows your name in any context and wishes to learn something about you. Both Jack and Andrea have recently written great posts on this issue. The issue isn't to do with personal security, but losing control of which version of you you wish to present.

That and the fact that I'm struggling to write one or two nonsense blogs a week and keep up with e-mail; last thing I need is another identity to uphold.

Cat People Survey Update
As of today, two thirds of you claim to be cat-people. Although I realise my survey had a major flaw (impurrfect, you might say), being placed at the bottom of a post all about cats, which some non-cat-people may not have bothered scrolling down. But still, it is rather odd.


Anonymous said...

A few family members and friends (who are close enough to be classed as family) read my 'blog and as such I more often than not avoid certain things when I write, such as my feelings towards certain things, feelings that I wouldn't share with them face to face. So I can see your problem with your granny coming online.

I've considered setting up a separate, anonymous 'blog to use for my vents and frustrations so I can say all the things I can't say on my main site. Or I might already have a second site, full of my complaints, anger and self-indulgent wailing. Who knows? Well ... I know.


The Goldfish said...

I must say that blogging has actually helped on the old honesty front; once or twice I have realised that if I'm happy for complete strangers across the globe to know how I feel about something, then I might as well tell my nearest and dearest.

I have also told stories on here changing the gender of characters and my relationship to them (two simple steps that seem to really throw people).

Thank you for choosing my blog to start a scandalous rumour, which will undoubtedly escalate to all manner of speculation as to where Timmargh has a second secret blogging identity... You're not really Belle de Jour, are you?

seahorse said...

I upset a friend recently because I was not very polite about an email updating me with factoids about dim and distant acquaintances, not friends you understand, gleaned from their most recent Facebook foray.
I think the intention was good - to 'keep me in touch' with people. But none of them feature in my life any more, so why bother? I got all lofty and rejected the 'gos' about so and so and such and such.
My response became a tirade against Facebook, which caused quite a ruffling of feathers. But I just really don't see the point of it all. And yes, I'm with you on the confusing identities thing.

Anonymous said...

Yes, that's one of the things that troubles me, and I'm not on Facebook. I started a Yahoo Answers account but haven't done anything with it other than waste hours honing my avatar - that's another story, I guess.

Apart from showing different aspects of yourself to different audiences, there's also the thing about needing different forums... if I wanted to talk about cats, I wouldn't do that on a forum about televisions. I would expect to find people interested in cats on the cat forum, but if I was to talk about cats to my friends in general, some would be interested, and some wouldn't. So from that point of view, we even tend to pick and choose amongst our real life friends when looking for discussions...

For instance I will talk to sister and mother about cats, will speak to John and Tim about computer problems, will discuss dolphins, badgers, and environmental issues with Annie and Tess... if I tried to interest all of them in all of those topics, it could well backfire!

Mary said...

Further to Diddums' comment about posting appropriately to different forums... I think your granny probably realises that your behaviour and language and (to an extent) persona when having Civilised Tea with her is likely to be different to your behaviour etc when discussing things you are upset about with your peergroup.

This applies whether it's online, in the park, in your house...

Elizabeth McClung said...

It is interesting as blogging does often involve more than a single person, or more about that person than they might want a stranger to know and one you are out there, well, it is like coming out of the closet, who knows where it goes?

When I started I had "rules" about content and then that changed and I just plain out told people, "don't read by blog becuase you won't like what you see there." Not the most subtle solution but hey.