I once had a friend who stopped talking to me in our college years. He and I were good friends who had grown apart. At one point in time we were spending nearly everyday together, giggling and joking, and then it just fizzled until we were hardly speaking to each other. When I tried to talk to him, he shied away. What had gone wrong?
This went on for many many months and finally I asked him directly. This was in college, remember, when I was less accepting of the fact that sometimes friends drift apart. Since then, enough friends have drifted away that I have sadly come to tolerate that happening. (I wonder if I should fight more to keep my friends? That’s a tricky proposition). “Why, Alex,” I asked, “Don’t you like me anymore?” (names have been changed)
He looked down at the ground. “I don’t like who you are anymore.”
It was a blow but I managed to ask what he meant.
“I don’t like how you act online.” This was back in the days before instant messenger, and blogs. This was when we were online at the UNIX command prompt and chatting on some very hacked up irc/icb type forum. Kind of like group chat with a very large membership.
“But,” I responded. “Do you know that who I am online isn’t who I am in real life?”
He hadn’t quite understood that, I guess. Or realized that possibility. Or realized my view of the internet as a playground for only one facet of my personality. I have a private side, that AIN’T going to be out there.
These days I’ve gotten my fair share of people who find my online persona distasteful–more of a problem on the blog with my real name on it. If the name is real, the person has to be real, too? And there’s a real person to attack, right? If I post a sexy picture of myself, that makes me a whore, right? (NOT). And here? Because I don’t post my real name, does that make me an intensely private person? I don’t think so, either.
The idea of a persona is fascinating. What do we keep in our persona? What do we leave out? How do we use it on the internet? How do we use it as we “market” ourselves in the world? Or when we write? Even when we write memoir, is that really US on the page? No. That’s a different character, it’s a REPRESENTATION of the author.