Saturday, August 21, 2004

Who Are We, Really?

A question came up on an AOL Writers Message Board the other day, the sort of question tht comes up every now and then, re: how much or how little we reveal of ourselves online. Someone -- okay, someone who tends to be a message board troll, but the questions that came out of the post were valid ones -- took issue with the fact that some of us "hide behind our screen names," while others don't. In fact, some people have screen names or signatures that are their full names and some people give many details about their personal lives. I have mentioned only the city where I live, that I'm married, that I'm 51 (and proud of it), and that I'm a public librarian. It's a matter of privacy for me.

But a larger issue came out of this somewhat nonsensical discussion. How well do we know the people we converse with online or whose blogs we read?

Some people reveal a lot about themselves, willingly or unwillingly. I wish I felt comfortable and confident enough about the online experience to be so open about myself with regards to my full name and details about my personal life. But I know there are weird people out there. I work with the public. I deal with weird people everyday. I don't need to make things easier for them. If they realized they could find me online, I'd probably be bombarded by requests for books. heh. Really. I know a librarian who got a phone call in the middle of the night, waking her up, from someone wanting to know about a book she had on reserve. So I'm a bit leery about folks finding out too much about me. Privacy is a precious thing, to be protected.

As for unwilling, or rather, unwitting, revelations, some people say a lot between the lines, with their attitudes, with various slipups, with the way they phrase things.

Others have an online persona that might or might not in any way resemble their rela life self. People can think they know them. But if they should ever meet this person they think they know, they might find themelves face to face with a total stranger.

I have a variety of personas in real life, so I'm sure I have a variety online, too. My tone might be fairly consistent, but the content varies widely. I reveal bits of myself on one message board, different bits on another. My real life friends think neither is the real me, and what they see differs from what my husband sees. Or what my father sees. Or my sister.

Sometimes, the person I am when I'm alone feels like the real me, but so does the me who goes on vacation or to movies with friends or the one who goes to concerts with my husband. I don't put my faith in the Zodiac, but I do feel that my sign, Gemini, suits me, except I'm not just two people. I'm many. Depending on the situation. Depending on where and when and with whom.

So folks reading this or my other blogs or my posts on message boards will learn things about me, but don't think you know me. The real me. The me with all her parts. You just get to see some of the parts.

And I don't presume to think I really know the folks I meet online. I did get to meet someone from the AOL message boards, a few times. And while I like her and we had fun together at WorldCon a few years ago, in many ways she was much different than the person whose words often scroll across my monitor screen.

There. A real entry for CC, Jr., as I'm affectionately calling this blog.