Who Am I?

K-Yawn - Version 2

Many years ago there used to be a television game show of that name — “Who Am I?” — where contestants had to guess which guest was telling the truth about their profession. Two guests lied; one was required to be truthful. There is a different series, “Who Do You Think You Are?“, currently airing, where celebrities journey to trace their family roots.

I was reminded of these programs last week when I came across two articles posted on social media that involved personal identity. In order to get to my point I need to share a few excerpts.

In one article, Michelle de Rusha wrote about the hard work of growing authentic relationships online.

“I think one of the hardest parts about being a writer, and specifically a memoirist, is that it’s often challenging to know where to draw the line, how much to tell, how much of myself and my private life to reveal…Sometimes I avoid writing about [certain] topics because they are controversial, and I like controversy about as much as I like flossing my teeth, which is to say, not at all.

“On the other hand, sometimes I don’t write about [other] topics because I’m afraid you won’t like me, or will be disappointed in me, or will see me differently or less-than. I’m a people-pleaser at heart; I don’t like to ruffle feathers or disappoint.

“And sometimes I don’t write about certain topics because I’m afraid they don’t fit who I think you think I am. Does that make sense? Take time to read that sentence again, because it’s a bit convoluted.

“Part of this disconnect is simply a natural by-product of writing publicly. The truth is, you can’t know every facet of who I am just by reading what I write here … this blog and my memoir, even though they are about me, aren’t me entirely. They don’t fully represent me; they don’t reflect every facet of my personality, who I am inside and out. Part of that is because I have presented myself in a certain way, not to be deceptive, but simply because that’s what happens, even in in-person communication. And part of that is because you have interpreted me and defined me in certain ways according to who you are and what you believe.”

In the other article entitled ‘Goodbye, Facebook’, LL Barkat compares her sustained online presence to being at a constant party.

“What would it look like to attend a party for years? The music never off. Always the same snacks. No room of one’s own. Chatter, chatter, chatter, chatter. And always the ready smile, because that’s what we do at parties… The day I lost my will to speak, I realized I was tired. I have been at a party for years. You could say the cause of this fatigue was all of digital life. But you would be wrong. If you said, “Facebook?” I would say I have been doing an experiment.

“Here is the thing. Facebook is “push” technology. Things keep popping up without you asking, and the algorithms pretend to take your wants into account, but you really have virtually no control. What’s more, you are connected (semantically) to “friends,” not interests, and friends put all kinds of things out there at all hours of the day regardless of your mood and intentions at any given moment, and because they are linguistically labeled as “friends” and not “people I follow,” there is a subtle emotional obligation that comes when these posts pop up, saying whatever these posts might say.

“All the while, you are swinging from extreme to extreme. Laugh! Cry! (Someone died. Someone just said the damnedest thing. Oh, that’s cute. OMG, carnage. Or, here comes a carnal clip of something you hadn’t wanted to see) … and it’s confusing, but you keep … on … eating, because these are friends and you are at a party, after all.

Respond. Respond. Respond. And? Express. The party has trained us (or have I trained myself?) to lay out the details of our experiences and our thoughts, in an unnatural constancy, until we have given over much of our inner life to the flat sameness of a digital wall.”

She suddenly stopped talking; her voice became mute. She’s said goodbye to Facebook, perhaps permanently, perhaps not. She may come back once a month “for a day of party-going”, but first she needs to overcome her social media exhaustion. 

Both authors are dabbling in the quagmire of what determines an authentic online identity and I can relate to their struggle. None of us can be positive that what we know of our cyber-acquaintances, or what they know of us, reflects the reality. The dilemma is, does it matter?

I think it does because in our effort to utilize social media to expand and maintain communication, the loss of a unique personal identity is becoming a byproduct. Online, we become who we want people to think we are. Consciously or unconsciously, we display snippets of positive reality for public consumption while we abstain from revealing anything that might adversely reflect on our persona.

Keeping up pretenses is exhausting. Combined with the addictiveness of the Internet, it’s no wonder digital communication is affecting us.

Don’t get me wrong. I think the Internet is a fabulous tool for communication and professional promotion. But, more and more, I’m coming to believe it’s also leading us into an identity crisis. We can’t seem to function in the everyday — or don’t feel complete — unless we’re logged into our digital world. That can’t be a good thing!

We’re enriched by our cyber relationships, but our continuous connection is depleting the inventory of who we are.

When my late Aunt Norma was establishing her blog, she went through an exercise to provide a blurb for her ‘About Me‘ page, setting out a list of what she felt defined her identity. We might all do well to create such a list, and then keep it handy for reference.

Do you know who you are?

If you’re inclined to take inventory, I’d love it if you’d share your list.

~  ~  ~

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8 thoughts on “Who Am I?

  1. joylene says:

    Very well stated. I have little to do with FB, until we went to Bucerias. It was then that I saw it as a wonderful way of staying in touch with family and friends. Tho, many of my followers are really just strangers. Writers. My husband is now hooked on FB, so I’m thinking it might be best to set him up with his own account. I’m of the same mind that most of what’s on isn’t appropriate. My granddaughter just sent me an add friend notice.

    • Carol says:

      I first joined FB to stay connected to children and grandchildren, but it wasn’t long before I connected with other friends. I enjoy the interactions, but realize it’s up to me to limit the amount of time I spend perusing comments, and that’s hard to do.

  2. Jenn Hubbard says:

    My online presence is mostly for my writer self. My family, my day job, my other activities and causes and interests, are mostly elsewhere, in the 3-D world. I’m also not on Facebook. And I only go online from my desktop computer; I don’t carry around a smartphone to engage constantly with the internet. All that helps me feel like I have some breathing room.

    • Carol says:

      I never went online from my desktop computer as long as I ran my home business with it. I’m still extremely cautious about what I access and what information I make public, but I still have mixed feelings about how I am perceived. I feel enriched by some of the online relationships that have developed but I doubt it’s possible for them to know the real me. I admire your self-control in limiting how much you engage.

  3. pastordt says:

    Each of these posts – Michelle’s, L.L.’s and yours – point out some of the concerns of instant digital communication. I’m not sure there’s too much to be done about some of it — it is here to stay and it is what it is. Setting boundaries such as time limits or specific times for internet interaction is probably a good thing to do. I have yet to do it, however! I’m working on it — but this place became an absolute gold mine for me in the earliest days of my retirement and I so value the community (and I use that word in the fullest sense of it) I’ve discovered here. Like any other large gathering, there are circles that are more intimate than others. And I am now not posting pictures of my youngest grandchildren because of family concerns about privacy and safety. And that makes me sad. However, it is reality and I need to pay attention to that. I wrote a credo for my blog as well as an ‘about me’ page and that helps to introduce who I am and what I hold dear. But you’re right, you cannot know me only in this context. Although I will say – you know a lot of me!

    • Carol says:

      Diana, I agree we aren’t likely to change how the majority use and are affected by online communication. The only control we have is over our own use. Unfortunately, I think those who have said it promotes addictive behaviour are right…and that’s a worry.

      However, it does have value, as you’ve found — for you, a unique ministry opportunity — and as long as we occasionally do some self-evaluation and can draw the line when that value is no longer realized, there may not be a problem. Personally, I like the ‘you’ I’ve come to know here, and I’m pretty sure I’d like the IRL version of you, too. 🙂

  4. elderfox says:

    Good morning m’dear friend…well, you have certainly claimed my attention, and a need to do some soul search thinking about “me-myself-&-I” when it came to regarding my “selfing”, as in who the heck do others think I am? And why it’s important…or not. I don’t think of having a BIG following, and when I “blog” it’s usually about the purebred canine world.
    ..TO BE CONTINUED…lunch time

    • Carol says:

      As I mentioned to Diana above, there can be distinctive opportunities and benefits to online communication. I think we sometimes drift into it, though, without much thought about how others perceive us and what, if any, real value we gain or give in our interactions. I know that’s the case for me. I developed an online presence prematurely, in preparation for promoting my writing, but I still haven’t done much of that. (You, on the other hand, have much knowledge and wisdom that can be shared from your experiences in the purebred canine world — a perfect focus for your blog posts.)

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