Wednesday, December 04, 2013

About Online Personas: Do I Have One? Do I Need One? Does Anyone Care?

You'd think, for an introvert like myself, interacting online and blogging and whatnot would be easy, seeing as I can do such things from the comfort of my non-people-filled home.

But no. And here's why.

1. It turns out, for me, interacting is interacting, at some level. Yes, in-person interaction is much more exhausting and often high-stress and occasionally bitterly disappointing (that's where my introversion starts to veer into misogynistic, self-critical melancholy). But online interaction takes a certain amount of energy, too. So I'll kind of disappear for days at a time, just as—if you know me IRL—I sort of do in actuality. I need periods of hermitude so I can be a fun-filled bundle of nonstop cheer when you do see me. Or, at least, so I can recharge my energy reserves and be ready to act like a normal person when I see you. And online, I seem to also function in bursts, and then need downtime in between. The two types of interaction also synergize, in the sense that if I'm feeling overwhelmed by real-life stuff, I also tend to be too exhausted to be present online, either.

2. I don't know how much of my actual self I want to put out there. Again, as an introvert, I'm used to sharing only certain things with certain people. So I often get paralyzed into doing nothing when I start thinking about posting X or Y to Facebook or this blog. It's not that I'm secretive. I am sort of private, I guess. But mostly, I wonder things like: Who actually cares if I post this? What if I post something that makes someone weirdly confrontational? What if I post about myself and then regret it and feel stupid about it later? What if my blog post doesn't pass some imaginary "coolness test" that I've totally built up in my mind? And so on.

3. Persona management is something that concerns me now that I have actual published books and articles and stuff out there. And frankly, it feels like an overwhelming Sisyphean task. Should I be doing certain types of posts now that I'm "an author"? Is it bad if I don't do what author X or author Y are doing? (Obviously the answer is no, but the question still bothers me.) What if by doing X or Y I totally screw it up? What if by doing NOTHING I screw it up? And then there's the feeling that whatever bits and pieces of myself are already floating around out there have a life of their own already—a thought that makes me feel incrementally better simply because it's out of my hands.

Ultimately, though, I guess I do at some level crave interaction, or I wouldn't be writing things and posting things in the first place. But just as I feel a bit out of sync with the way "most normal people" (who are these people??) in the world function socially, I also feel a bit out of sync with how I'm supposed to be or expected to behave online. I guess that's because now there IS such a thing as "normal" behavior online, now that most* people are online and doing things. So the normative mores for online behavior now follow what those "normal people" do, and we're back to fundamentally the same situation in the online world as the physical one.

Of course, that is a vast generalization. And I want to live in a world—real or online—where there is room for variety in the socialization spectrum. It's not actually something we're taught very well (or at all), in our society: to tolerate different types of social behavior and patterns of interaction. I make a conscious, conscientious effort to respect the needs of the people in my life when it comes to them needing more or less interaction. But I need to respect my own needs, too. And I guess, right now, I'm not sure what my needs actually are as far as my online presence is concerned.