An Online Identity Crisis of Sorts
A few weeks ago I took my life into my own hands and faced certain ruin and potential eternal consequences. I sent a tweet from church.
My wife had to leave service to take care of our young son, and I was left to my own devices. Quite literally. I decided to try an experiment and extracted my iPhone from my coat pocket. I began innocently enough by using the Bible program I have loaded for reference, and then the forbidden fruit dangled enticingly in front of my eyes. I thought twice, twitched slightly, opened TwitterFon, and sent out this nugget of wisdom.
Inspiring, I know.
Coincidentally, almost immediately after I sent the tweet, I remembered that I have Evernote on my iPhone. I used the application for the rest of the service to take notes, and I am quite convinced this is something worth continuing in the future. In fact, I’m going to be writing a guest post on our church’s blog about using technology in service in the near future as a result of the experiment. I’m sure it’s going to touch off a great conversation with those in our congregation who are a bit, how should I say it, traditional?
I also later confessed my sin to my wife, and a fascinating conversation ensued. Much of it was centered around recent discussions regarding how presenting to an audience who is Twittering or backchanneling changes the presentation dynamics for a speaker. This conversation likely merits its own post at some point in the future as well.
But the most telling outcome of this experience didn’t come from my digital note taking in church or the discussion with my wife. It came a few hours later when I got home and checked my Twitter feed. The responses to my tweet in church were both entertaining and intriguing. It was this tweet that really got me thinking.
I wondered what would happen if I did actually start sending out updates from my church’s service. Would people who know me on Twitter for my educational focus want to hear me talk about my faith? I then sent out this question.
The responses ranged from unequivocally “I would unfollow you” to “I think you should do it as I prefer people to be all of who they are on Twitter.” It was quite a range, and it was quite interesting to ponder exactly who we’ve let ourselves become in the social networks in which we run. Perhaps even, who do we want ourselves to become?
I think of the growth of many online social networks and what this means for the community. I’ve noticed as Twitter increases in popularity, I have more friends and acquaintances outside of education following me. I’ve also had our local newspaper, businesses, and past professors add their name to my list. It begets the question, “what do we do with this?” I have to wonder if my friends really care about my thoughts on Marzano and his recent research on interactive whiteboards. Do they care I don’t care for the overused and abused 21st Century nomenclature? Do they care that I persistently pester one particular Canadian?
This question isn’t restricted to only Twitter. It applies to all social networks. What do you do when your mom wants to be your friend on Facebook? Or your students? It makes me wonder if we have to start setting up multiple accounts for all our networks. There have been suggestions that it would be better to have a separate “professional” Twitter account and a “personal” Twitter account. Would the bifurcation of my life result in a dilution of my personality in both spaces?
Personally, I like some of the inane chatter that happens on Twitter. I like knowing when Dean spills on his shirt, or what Jon is cooking for dinner, or when Jen is engaged in an epic battle to get Z to bed. It’s the sum of the small things in our lives that make up the whole of who we are. I also know, however, that it’s tough to sift through all the chatter at times. I’ve heard that complaint from several people as of late, and it makes me wonder about the merit of having two accounts.
I’m really not sure where to go from here. I know this process will likely work itself out in an organic manner as these things tend to do with emerging technologies, but what will that process yield for us at its conclusion?
To end, I’ll have to go back to the beginning, and ask a question. If I started letting more of my life into Twitter, would you stop following me?
*UPDATED CONCLUSION: March 28
After posting this yesterday, I’ve come to realize I did a tremendously poor job ending this post. My intention was to frame the question more in a global fashion, and instead, I managed to focus it entirely on myself. I apologize for that. Please give me the chance to take a mulligan on the closing. Here is what I really meant to say.
To end, I have to go back to our beginning. Well, the beginning of an end to some regards. We’ve been enjoying many of our social networking sites in the comfort of the audience with which we grew. For Twitter, that was somewhat of a niche audience focused in technology and social media. Now, as people from all walks of our lives begin signing on and joining in, the question becomes, “What do we do as our worlds collide?” Thank you, George Costanza for that classic episode. As Matt said in the comments, he’s long wondered what he will do when his parents join Facebook. That’s how I really meant to end this post. How will our expectations and experiences change with social networks as they begin to aggregate people from all areas of our lives in one location? I remember what George said.
Thanks to Vanderlin for the Flickr image.