Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Alter Egos

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.


Whinophile said...

Hmm.. I've been making my presence felt on the online world since 1998 when VSNL was hte lone service provider.. and the horrors of the dial up connection! :P :P

Nice nostalgic post! :D

(ps - moved the blog here! :P)

Sra said...

A chunk of my friends on FB are other bloggers, and most of them people I've never met. Heck, some of us don't even say hello to each other, but at least I had/have some interaction with them through the blogs. I was (am) quite concerned about privacy but after three years of blogging, have relaxed a bit. The vibes, I guess.

I sometimes get friend requests from bloggers I don't even know had blogs - I don't accept those but have created another 'blogger' FB account for that sort of thing, follow my blog, etc. Not much goes on there.

I keep my FB/blogging life and work life as separate as possible, and that's how I intend it to continue.

Perakath said...


Blogging under one's real name inevitably restricts how politically incorrect one may be. And thus the writing invariably becomes boring. Please to avoid.

Pinku said...

Ur questions and doubts are very relevant....i have felt them too....but eventually decided I am me...and it wouldnt do to divide myself up just for the sake of people's perception....so i am me now...


its a relief!!

buddy said...

very well written!

Mukta said...

hey! discovered your blog from shilpa's and omg! your posts are awesome. read thru some of the older ones randomly and loved the streaks of humor that abound! spent a delightful hour or so at your blog :)

AmitL said...

Hi,Cyn-that's quite a revelation-from the online avatar to the blogging world.:)
A big laugh at the 'Everyone and their mother-in-law started twittering and facebooking'..ah well,maybe that's better than saas bahus fighting,huh?
Lastly,oh wow-waiting for the unmasking day! Wonder when it'll be?

Cynic in Wonderland said...

Whinophile oh yes. the dial up. I was restricted to post ten in the night i think. to keep the phone free. all the dropped connections and what not.

sra - thought of keeping a seperate acct you know for blogs. but its seriously too much to manage so many accounts.

perakath - ah the joys of asl. that was my screener for weeding out people - anyone who started a conversation with asl was OUT. And yes, i know its restrictive. why do u think i have an anon blog?

Pinku - true perhaps. but a lot of times catharasis and venting can only happen when you dont know people no?

buddy :)

Mukta - welcome and please to come back!!!

Amitl - unmasking is unlikely to happen actually. too paranoid i am hehe.

Meira said...

Aha...and I bet that would never happen :P
What is the need to merge the two avatars? Only to google for your name and discover that your name, your family's details have been searched for some 5000 times! Not worth it.

litterateuse said...

Dont :) Unmask, that is. With the mask on, you can always hope (why even intend!) to unmask "someday", but once you unmask there's no place to hide.

Besides, you can say "everyone and their mother in law" (in fact even a particular mother in law and her mother in law!) with the mask. Imagine never being able to say that ;)

Unless of course, you want to blog about marketing or philosophy and such :P


Thanatos said...

Stay anonymous, stay cynical...

Cynic in Wonderland said...

meira - it probabaly wont. its too much fun being anon.

g- *shudders* marketing and philosophy it seems. i would lose 3/4th of my bitchiness. no fun that.

thanatos - yup thats the plan for now.