One of the problems of social media is that two separate worlds and two identities are starting to collide these days.
When I first started the online avatar circa ~2000 in the chatting era, life was very simple. There was the real life me. And then there was the online avatar. The people who existed in both spheres were largely disparate – maybe one or two very close friends aware that I was on the chat scene. Consequently it developed into almost two parallel personae – the online avatar the almost crystallized, distilled version of the quirky, carefree, irreverent part of me. The real life was more diffused – with responsibilities, work and worries and what not.
A few years on, some of the folks from the chatting crowd went on to become friends –leading to an exchange of names and telephone numbers. But for some reason, the chatting scene (or maybe it was the early internet scene) seemed to attract a fairly anonymity obsessed breed of individuals so it was fairly easy to keep the two identities separate (the geographical spread of the chatters also helped – almost all were in the US)
2004, a fascinating new thing called blogging came to my notice. I had no social life – my time being largely spent at work. A lot of the chat crowd in an almost synchronized, lemming-isque fashion had stopped chatting. And of course, that latent writing bug in me. So blogging was manna from heaven – a place to write, vent and read some other people. It eventually led to a forum to meet new people – but that was an unplanned (albeit very welcome) side-effect.
But the bloggers, unlike the chatters (at least the early bloggers) all seemed to coincidentally belong to the same large fuzzy circle in which the real life people operated (a remarkable number of them from the marketing/advertising/MR fraternity - the no-social-lifers with the same bright idea perhaps). Almost all of them were contemporaries and from the same tier of grad/post-grad schools. And thus every other blogger was only one or two degrees of separation away from me.
And thus the overlaps began – some meetings, some phone calls, many mails, chatting –the earlier purdah of real life versus online life just wouldn’t work anymore.
At the other end of the spectrum, the REAL life people started popping up with rather alarming regularity in the online life –, the boss on blogger, the client on twitter. And then chatting folks started blogging. And the blogging folks started chatting. And everyone and their mother-in-law started twittering and facebooking.
Very disconcerting to my poor alter egos. Should I continue with the online avatar in the online world irrespective of the fact that offline people (who had seen only the stone-cold sober side of me) or should I not? Would I like to show the blog/twitter avatars to a few people from real life?
The other aspect is that of anonymity – I am yet to ascertain for myself what it means to me. When I started chatting it was clear that I didn’t want the online folks to know my name or any other aspect– the internet was abuzz with stalkers and perverts and hackers who could do unnameable things if they knew who you were. But over the last decade ( aiyo rama- almost a decade!!!), where my anonymity paranoia has relaxed, I wonder whether I am more worried about the real life acquaintances coming to know of the more carefree persona ( the in-laws and outlaws hobnobbing with the chatting crowd – now that IS a terrifying thought).
And it’s all very confusing keeping them separate. I am very sure I will sign off an official mail with CiW one of these days.
Maybe I shall flamboyantly unmask myself one of these days. Hmmm.