As I was reading the various bits around Bonnie Stewart’s MOOC post and running down some of her rabbit holes, two songs came to mind: David Bowie’s 1980 Fashion and Madonna’s 1990 Vogue. They make me think of sub-cultural identities, the dance club identities that are not shown during the day, but intended to be seen by a particular public. These songs evoke the performative self and perhaps the facets of identity that are normally hidden in the everyday community.
My online identities are really extensions of my everyday and I’m not terribly complicated, but I do see some of the elements of performance and branding in my online identities. I mostly use Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and was a bit late to these platforms. I use my real name and pictures of myself. My behavior in these spaces is careful and has elements of brand management even in the more personal Facebook space. I also see variety in my limited uses of social networking tools based on the audience that I perceive. I think I am generally cognizant of audience when I post or share.
My Facebook journey began like many boomers as an attempt to reconnect with people that I had lost contact with and as a way to organize a high school reunion. I did some active searching and outreach. I have kept a fairly upbeat and positive image on that site, not posting my gripes and keeping my political commentary tame, though my leaning is clear. There is a brand of sorts, but not so consciously managed. I do not say or do things I do not want my mother to see. I post content fairly regularly, share that of others and sometime just look. I pay a attention to the “likes” and comments on my posts and those of others and watch for news from my friends. So a bit quantified and fairly participatory and that all goes in phases. My friend list is a mix of family, friends, and high school classmates, with a few folks from work sprinkled in. It seems that there are more than a few people who do not need to see that part of my life even though it is not really controversial or exciting.
When I added LinkedIn, I un-friended a lot of work folks on Facebook and instead added them onto LinkedIn, which is mostly professional and locked my Facebook account down fairly tightly. (At the same time, my Facebook account was expanding to include relatives and friends who were not so politically correct.) My LinkedIn profile on the other hand is very open. While I stay positive on both sites, their purposes and thus my identity on each is different. On Facebook I can be Nana, high school social secretary, gardener, kayaker and photographer, and a little foolish. On LinkedIn, I am a successful senior academic administrator with a few hobbies that wants to see what others like me are doing, so I am in lots of groups and post occasionally. I would say a less participatory persona on LinkedIn than the others. I pay attention to the stats that are free, but have not paid extra bucks to see additional detail.
My twitter account is newer and became useful to me because of the MOOC and so I have mostly followed folks in educational technology for learning realm. It has a sense of discovery for me and a way to broadcast news and links and I guess it gives me a bit of a different brand than I have on LinkedIn. I am more connected to folks I really only know by reputation and brand Twitter. Those who follow me are an interesting curiosity and a mix of folks from work and other things I follow. I think I follow too many people to make sense of the stream sometimes; those tidbits don’t have the personal context that I have with the FB updates.
Blogging is new to me but is focused thus far on education, teaching and learning and officially started with the MOOC. I have allowed myself to write some half-baked ideas, which is something I have not normally put into the public sphere.
Thanks Bonnie for an interesting post and sharing your work. This post has helped me start to make sense of the notion of online identity and I don’t have a complicated mix of screen names or avatars. I will share your post with the folks developing a new master’s degree in emerging technologies for learning and teaching at my college. Cheers!