Monday, 30 May 2011

Fractured Identities

I am back again, I think this blog is going to be updated much more frequently, I have a building pressure of thoughts to offload in this private (mostly) space. I re-read some of the material I posted a long time again and it is a very useful review process, so time to start dumping more half-baked thoughts and seeing what happens in my head.

Something that has bothered me for a long time and something I am going to think about in more detail for a while is on-line presence of the individual. A couple of weeks ago I went back to the place where I went to school and met up again with some guys I originally knew from over two decades ago. We meet up approximately once a year or so and have one or two shared interests in common even though we have all lead very different lives. Careers, interests, lifestyles, philosophy, outlook, are all very different. Every time we meet up we have a great time, but between times we communicate very little and know very little about each other. I am sure that the person we present to each other is relevant to the situation and that this is in part what makes it such a pleasure to meet again. We have little connection on-line (apart from the occasional email to make arrangements). The people we are when we meet are in many ways shaped by and relevant to the situation and the history we share.

I have multiple twitter accounts including twitter like accounts in Chinese etc. I struggle with Facebook, the concept that there is a single me that can be represented, distilled and relevant to all the real people I know. How can the various circles in which I move, the various persona's and interests, the professional links converge on one spot in a meaningful way? If I am interested in someone on a language learning basis, I want to read a blog or follow a twitter feed that is mostly relevant to this aspect, not filter through the chuff that is the rest of their lives or get asked if I want to connect with friends of theirs that they go diving with. Perhaps I will meet them and connect more fully (and then be interested in more aspect) but perhaps they will lose interest (even if only online) in languages and the feed will dry up (effectively vanishing from my radar).

I don't want to connect with my teenage sons on Facebook, I should be connecting with them in real life, I am pretty sure that connecting with them on Facebook would dilute the experience on both sides.

Ex-coworkers have largely nothing to do with people I meet to learn foreign languages, my messages to them, links for them, information I share with them (hey I might want to work with them again some time) should not mix. In fact it would seem that in a lot of cases the only reason to mix is to say to one group "hey look how well rounded I am" by exposing them to the edited highlights of the rest of my life. Regardless of tagging etc. I don't have many good ways to separate the life-streams without spending too much time organising (organising something that works better if spontaneous) or expecting people following me to somehow organise theirs. So we are polluting each others lives with spam. No better than inviting someone around in the 1970's to watch the 4 hour sideshow of your holiday (unless there is special interest after the first 10 mins they don't really care).

If I follow the public, social feed of some guy who is known for developing a cool programming platform, anything not related to that platform is spam to me, time wasting spam, we are not related, we are not friends, I don't have a reason to be interested.

Maybe this seems a little harsh, maybe a little extreme, and there are some focused feeds out there, and people who are not afraid to set-up multiple focused on-line presences. Perhaps I could be accused of not being interested in people? Nothing is further from the truth, I enjoy finding out about people, I just find that face to face, with all the feedback mechanisms we have evolved to gauge interest the experience is order of magnitude better.

Facebook of course is a harder place to fracture, or even linkedin (which is admittedly more focused on fabricating an image for yourself that may make you more employable). Maybe I am over reacting, a lot of the information requires some action to pull it out, but it seems to me that there is still too much I have to actively ignore or too many distractions.


Philip said...

Having read your post, I think I now better understand why I'm so seldom on Facebook ;-) Thanks for sharing your thoughts...

Chris said...

Thanks for the comment Philip I am not used to comments here ;)