Those few people who read my blog will know that for some time, I’ve been complaining about political tweeting, digital narcissism, and my longing for more sociable networking. It’s not that I think services like blogs or twitter in themselves have a tendency to make people more self-conscious, but that more often than naught, people use the services for promotional purposes, and in the process, a lot of the personal glitter that made the early days of web-self-publishing so innovative and interesting are losing the sparkle.
However, I find myself becoming more and more of a political tweeter and digital narcissist myself, excluding random rants for fear of looking emotionally insecure, knowing that anyone can look at my profile– not just people (like my parents) who are interested in what I’m doing but also scholars like danah boyd who does research by looking at public profiles of people using social networking services. Of course, being “open” on the web is like being outside on the street; technically, anyone can stop by and look at you, take your picture, or even use observation of your activity for empirical research. I guess that is why I dress up when I go out instead of walking out in my nightie, but having a public profile on the web is different and I feel I’m more likely a guinea pig candidate for social science studies.
I long for the “olden” days (which for me are the late 90s) when web communities were tightly knit and I still had a strong, true-to-life identity despite the use of a pseudonym. I feel I can’t be my true self– not because I have something to hide, but because I have to maintain a professional front 100% of the time. And I feel disgusted with myself when I see myself using Twitter or Facebook in a very different way than I used them a year ago.I was so ashamed that I recently went back and deleted some of my PR-esque tweets. Really, do I want to waste bits to brag? It seems pathetic.
To some extent, I realize that this change is somewhat related to the fact that I’m getting older, and having recently celebrated a major milestone, I feel entitled to join the posse of mid adulthood and the unspoken tendency to increasingly hide one’s feelings. I feel it is also affected by my being Korean (in which what shows on the outside is sometimes more important than what is inside)– traits that have been pummeled into me by my mother. Whatever the reason, the web is becoming less of a friendly place, more of a professional place where I have to share with all or none, or put up with multiple identities.
I wonder if I am building myself on sand and not rock. My sister uses the Internet as much as I do, yet her social networking and identity building on the web is very minimal. I, however, have a very strong cyber identity that is so much a part of me that if all servers around the world (or at least those of WordPress, Flickr, Naver, Cyworld and Blogin)were to blow up, I would feel like a part of me were to disappear. [Being the imaginative person that I am, I actually asked Eric Schmidt once what would happen if someone bombed Google’s servers. He said that Google had enough servers around the world to keep my information safe. Hopefully that is true. Even in the past decade, I have already had to “bury” several digital identities as services come and go, whereas all the journals and stories, photobooks from childhood are still intact in their original form.]
I wish that Twitter would be ephemeral– have an expiration date of some sorts– so that Tweeters can tweet impulsively without having to worry about the archive that follows. Or if I could have some sort of setting that lets me show people only 5 or 10 of my most recent tweets, I don’t think I’d be so much of the political tweeter that I am now.