*My principle, Stephen Whiffin, often refers to the “Blurring of lines between living and learning,” and it is from this quote that the title of this post comes from. If I were to sum this post up on Twitter I’d say, (in 140 characters), “Although we share different things in different places, we are who we are, and slowly our online identity is becoming a fabric of our being.”
Here is a photo of me in my Twitter hat. That’s George Couros behind me, ‘photo bombing’ me. This was at the ConnectedCa Conference a few weeks back, and the photo was taken by Elisa Carlson, @EMSCarlson on Twitter. This is what she said in the accompanying tweet:
Here is the thing I wonder about… why is it ok for us to wear name brands like Nike and Helly Hansen, but not our own names? What’s wrong with ‘Product Me’? Which I happen to think is much better than ‘Product You‘. Yet even as I write this, I can’t help but feel that it sounds narcissistic and so perhaps ‘product me’ is the wrong approach to understanding this aspect of identity? The point is that we are sharing more and more of ourselves online and that ‘person’ that we share online is becoming a bigger & bigger part of who we really are. You have to go online to read this, to learn about what I’m pondering and what I think is worthy of reflecting on and choosing to share publicly. You will ultimately know more about my thoughts on identity than most people I know and converse with face-to-face.
And now, more than ever, I’ve had my digital and physical contexts merge.
I had the privilege of meeting Alan Levine last week. I’ve known him for a few years, but we had never met face-to-face before a twitter conversation led me to the realization that he was in town. We quite literally fell into conversation like two old friends that were re-connecting. In our conversation, we talked about “schools, identity, & stuff we can’t tweet”.
And it wasn’t so much about ‘stuff we can’t tweet’ as it was about what we choose to/not to tweet. One example I gave is that I really like Texas Hold’em poker. Now that’s not a secret, I’ve even blogged about it once, but I choose not to make that part of my regular online conversations. And the fact is that I’m far more chronic about reading blogs than playing poker, much to the chagrin of my friends whom are waiting for my inaugural home game after my return from China (10 months ago).
I contextualize my online conversations much like I do face-to-face conversations. This blog space allows me to say more than, “Although we share different things in different places, we are who we are, and slowly our online identity is becoming a fabric of our being.” …which I can and did say in a tweet. I choose the message length, language, voice, and content based on the context, the medium. I don’t want to share my tweets in Facebook where I’ll spam my family’s timelines with educational links. I use different hashtags in Twitter for different kinds of resources. I don’t usually sit with face-to-face friends and talk about Blurring Identity Lines. That’s why I hated Google Buzz, because it took all my conversations from different contexts and smushed them together in one place.
Yet it is getting harder and harder to separate my online and physical world identities. For one thing, my definition of friendship has drastically shifted over the past few years… and I’m not just talking about Facebook’s idea of friendship, I’m talking about real concrete, salt-of-the-earth and down-to-earth friendships. As I recently said, “The lines between ‘digital’ vs ‘in-real-life’ friendship have truly blurred for me over the past 7 years. Geography is no longer a barrier to friendship.”
A great example of this came up when both Alan and I realized that a mutual friend, whom we both have never met face-to-face, had influenced and affected us deeply, although in completely different ways. Claudia Ceraso lives in Argentina, but she also inhabits a digital geography where both Alan and I have had digitally connected experiences with her. Those experiences can be as meaningful as a visit to the local coffee shop with a dear friend.
A day after meeting Alan, Claudia found out via twitter that Alan and I had met.
Alan and I sat in a pub in Vancouver, at our first face-to-face meeting, reminiscing about another friend that neither of us have met face-to-face… The lines are indeed blurring.
So, is my @datruss hat taking this social media thing too far? Or is it more an expression of me as a blended identity? Rodd Lucier already had @thecleversheep on his hat, and Zoe Branigan-Pipe went shopping for her very own @zbpipe hat while we were in Calgary… It isn’t nearly as much about social media as it is about our ‘whole’ identity.