Online Identity Crisis

I’ve grappled over this issue before – how to create/maintain my digital identity. In hindsight, I wish I wrestled with this online from the get-go rather than in my head and notebook (or in a course assignment requiring me to blog on the topic). For starters I would have spent more time productively blogging than feeling paralyzed over how to articulate my pseudo professional status. (Which by the way I’ve settled on “professional student,” “educator,” “PhD student,” and “masochist” depending on my mood that day.)

I first started seriously considering my online presence after joining a small word-of-mouth group called “permanent beta.” This was a few years ago. We are a group of women that gather once in a while to bounce professional concerns off of each other (I’m the only academic). Almost every meeting we chat about online presence and social media issues. Two large takeaways I got from this group are that our online identity isn’t fixed and that it’s better to actively take charge of it than passively hope we look okay in internet-o-shpere.

This Stanford piece on virtual identities had me at the first sentence, “First impressions have gone virtual.” Among two other very interesting courses (American Sexuality and Autobiographical Writing) I’m taking Digital History, which once again brings me to consider my online identity. Here are a few self-inflicted roadblocks I’ve faced preventing an active investment in my online identity (and by extension blogging more frequently):

  • I have no idea when I’m going to graduate so I assume I won’t need to worry about this for a while.
  • I’m not aiming for a traditional career path so I don’t know how to tailor my profile, “about” section, Linked-in, etc.
  • Speaking of Linked-in, I have small insecurities about having quit my full-time project management job to go back to school (read: I don’t have a “real job”) so I’ve avoided signing on and updating my profile.
  • Re: blogging. My audience and biggest fan is my husband. After that, an occasional friend. Writing into the digital abyss is taxing on the creative spirit.
  • Time! I’ve never worked so many long hours in my life. When I’m not reading or writing for school I feel guilty. It feels a bit self-indulgent to spend time building up my online self.
  • My Facebook privacy settings are on pretty high. I’m safe right?

That felt good to write.

And now the things I’m doing (or will do) to address the issues above:

  • Take a digital history course where weekly blogging and research on digital identities (practical and meta-analytical) are mandatory.
  • Make a list with all my social media accounts and update each profile. Assign a due date (within the next two weeks) and ask a friend to look at it.
  • Write a post now! (Which I’m doing.)
  • Remind myself that I can change or update my profiles anytime. Just like real identities I have many ways of being me and they’re rarely fixed one way.
  • Regularly follow other bloggers and digital historians/humanists.

Speaking of which, here are some blogs I follow that keep me interested and inspired. One relates to digital learning, the other is an interesting digital history project on American Foodways, and this last one is about being a PhD student and creative writer. And for those struggling to be an effective blogger (like I am), this article might be useful.

Rather than starting a new blog (for the Digital History course) I’ll be using this one to write about my academic experience this semester. There’s something nice about building on an existing blog instead of starting, yet another one, from scratch.

I leave you with this bootleg video of a scene from The Office. Dwight Schrute in Second Life.

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