Who Are You? or Are you Your Facebook Profile?
'Who are you?' said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, 'I — I hardly know, sir, just at present — at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.'
Later today I will take a call from a local media person who is wanting to compose a back to school article. I will be speaking as the new Director of Instruction; Technology and Innovation for West Vancouver School District. The general topic, I am told, is around how students use technology. The pending conversation has me thinking generally about how we all use technology, and moreover, how parts of us actually exist in a digital dimension.
Curiously, I write this from a somewhat remote location, on a lake in the Okanagan. Forty years ago my family started coming here, and for many years, we did not even have running water. We used to carry buckets from the lake and boil the water to wash dishes or to cook. Now, we have running water and, ahem, a wireless router.
I am literally composing this in a lounge chair, up on a deck overlooking the great expanse of water. The serenity and solitude of nature AND the convenience of the internet - there is something awesome about being able to lay here and write and publish from this spot, in real time, as a warm breeze blows.
And while I am here, on the deck, I am, to some extent, also out there in the ether. I exist on Facebook. And Twitter. I am on Blogger. And Instagram. Everything I have ever Googled leaves a kind of trace of me. Gives an insight into what my interests are. Every on-line purchase, every voice-mail message, every bank machine withdrawal - all these pieces of data leave a digital wake (Starbucks knows what coffee I like and how many cappuccinos I consume). There are videos and photos and articles out there that are also, well, somehow me. Or me and not me at the same time, if you know what I mean.
Think about the teenage gamer who has created for himself an online identity, T-Man98. It so happens that T-Man98 spends hours everyday on-line playing against others from all over the world. T-Man98 and is revered and feared globally for his awesome gaming skills. T-Man98's real name is William. He lives in Burnaby and is in grade 11. I suspect for William that being T-Man98 matters. He would say, "that's me."
Or take Samantha who takes the most hilarious Snapchats. Her personality and humour seem somehow contained therein. Or Robert, aka RobbyB, who has five hundred thousand people following his YouTube Channel. Or Sanjay, who recently created a profile on an Match.com. There are his pics, and a bio, and a list of his interests, etc. That's me, he would say.
existing in two dimensions?
Fascinating to me, is the way in which it seems possible today to engineer a sort of digital version of yourself. The shy, introvert who hates cocktail parties might be a social dynamo in cyberspace. Conversely, the chatty socialite with an opinion on everything might not even have a voice or an opinion in the on-line world. And how do we reconcile the differences? Do we need to? Is one more authentic than than the other? What does authentic mean in a digital realm? Are digital and authentic mutually exclusive?
footnote: I used to think that the "real" photo was the one I could hold in my hand, the hard copy. Now I realize I think of the hard copy as just a temporary print coming from the pure digital source. In other words, what I think of as "real" flipped somewhere along the way.
We have all heard the expression, "you are who Google says you are." Whether you subscribe to this notion or not, it does seem clear that more and more of us are spending more and more time in the digital dimension. This migration from the so-called real world to the virtual one is not slowing down. This virtual "space" exists and no shortage of things are happening there.
What is your presence and/or role in this space? How does your digital identity fit with your real world one? Are you your Snapchats? Your Facebook profile? Your tweets? Are they simply extensions of yourself? Or do we all become someone else in a virtual world? if so, who?
Cliche perhaps, but in a digital age, I think it is important to ask: who are you? If the answer seems a little more difficult to answer than you first thought, you are not alone.