Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Public, Private and Otherwise

As most of you probably know I am active on Twitter and Seesmic and Facebook and other web 2.0y sites. One of the themes that have been coming up a lot is about how we build relationships over these mediums. Loic Le Meur compares Seesmic to us all living together or being in the same room. Jeff Pulver calls it his social media living room.

I will admit I have some of those feelings. With these instant communication mediums we see into people's lives: Moments with their children, questions they have in life, ceremonies and celebrations, issues they think are important, what they are having for dinner or when they are drinking coffee. We develop a certain intimacy while never really being there physically. I mean, the ideal is that I will meet my Seesmic and Twitter friends but so far I have not.

That said, these living rooms, and bedrooms and kitchens we see are being shared on the public internet. Each tweet gets indexed by Google and our visages and words are easily brought up in a search. So that begs the question, how much do we share in public, even as we have the feel of a private space?

Last night, while my internet was down, I wrote up a post explaining why I haven't been posting which included the personal story of my past year, and ending with basically "I've been thinking lots, still have questions, am not satisfied, but time to get posting again." As you might note that post is not here. That might change, but putting those details down in my blog seemed to be too much of an exposure.

Now there are a a few points that make a blog differ from a Seesmic post or a tweet. My blog is, in a sense, where a person would go to find out more about me. Sure they might check my tweets or videos, but those sort of stream by. It is a public statement, but with so much volume as to make the information a bit of blur - at least for a human reviewing the data. So a statement here is a bit more permanent and likely read. Also, other than bits of data that slip I rarely share my questions and doubts and challenges with others, so perhaps I am just a bit less likely than most to share.

But I wonder how much people chose to show of their inner side. What makes someone comfortable to share the information? When is it appropriate? Is this sense of "private" and "public" a generational thing? a cultural thing? Do we become less sensitive to that boundary as we share more often, more consistently and more in private public areas? Or do we, in our minds, come up with our personal boundary - that we many not be aware of - and share freely on one side, and keep private what is on the other? And how do these boundaries, and the ubiquitousness of the social milieu affect how we interact in our actual private lives and relationships?

Right now all I have are questions, but I thought I would share them with you. Let me know your thoughts.


Anonymous said...

Good questions. I've been perusing those questions and feeling lately myself...

I think the answers are being created by all of us who use these tools, each day we use them... Some people would never feel comfortable sharing as much information as I've shared on my blog, but then to me, it's probably much different than what I would share if I met you and we were talking in person... I don't give out person-ably identifiable information when I post and have maintained the level of privacy I've been comfortable with so far. Some people are more open/exhibitionist by nature and feel more comfortable sharing who they are and how they got there... some are more closed off... I think we all have a voyeuristic side and that can be quenched nicely with things like twitter and blog reading (can you smell my lasagna?) ...in any case we should all be careful in what we say in public, how we display our persona, because it is now very often held against us and a matter of public record. Don't share anything on your public media vent that you don't want everyone to know about you, period.

Susan Reynolds/SL: Tynan Clary said...

I wish I could say something profound, but we each have limits and a comfort zone. Where you take us around your kitchen and are comfortable with wonderful personal interaction on screen; me - um - not so much. :)

On the other hand there are parts of my life that are more open than others. One is that I use my real life name that people can find me by googling, that I've sold paintings under for 35 years. I include a bio with my work and when I do art exhibitions and there's no reason for me to change that now that the audience multiplied by a couple thousand more people. Honestly, I just don't think that any more people are interested in _me_ now than there were 20 years ago when I - or rather my work - was hot.

And that's in part just something I was taught in art school - to be identified as a real person behind the paintings, always consistent. The same woman in the community as one is in the larger world, whether a story is running about me in the Northern VA Gazette or the New Yorker I'll have the same approach I always have.

But my advantage is that I'm not just coming to this public persona NOW, when one can be so easily stalked, singled out at work, or tracked a a bazillion ways I don't understand.

But what people are being advised now in art school or any other school that prepares people who will be in the public eye isn't really the question. My adult daughters don't use their full names online and I'm cognizant of that. They, and you, have a different set of challenges.

I'd like to know more about you, but from my perspective your right to feel comfortable always always outweighs the public interest in knowing more.

Fredérick 2 Baro said...

I do agree on last comment, we should be careful with our public statements. Here, all of them are public. I had a blog with my real name, no avatar, real face and then i showed nothing of my personnal life. I refused even to have fights that are very important to me. Now I'm "sort of" trying the avatar, and it seems that i give more of my personnal life..
What you're saying is right but not always. Sometimes we feel strong and then we can show everything and some other times at the opposite we feel fragile and we show less.. Then our public statements depends on our ability to show or not our feelings. And it doesn't only depend on who we are but also on the time of the day,and the time in our life.
It depends of so many things. But finally if we shows a bit of our privacy it also because we need to. Our narcissisms expresses himself. Just to see how we are. so I think that our boundaries depends also on how the others reacts to who/what we show. Sartre, a french philosopher/writer said : "I is an other one" ( je est un autre ). Because what we think we are is never what other people sees. so "I "is not the one we think is. I should stop this comment, I might not be clear enough... But what i think of myself is certainly not true. so you might have understood. My self confidence is so poor that i doubt it. So even if my public statements are showing what i think i am, they are never what i am and what I do. And therefore nothing is the truth without time and context... am i clear ? :-)
OUCH i have such a headache now...

Tojosan said...

I can tell you that I've been online for years, and now most of them as Tojosan. I've found it easy to adopt that than using my real name. Does that mean I don't expose myself a bit? Sure I do.

What makes that work for me? I'm older and less of a target for one. Another is that I no longer have small defenseless children at home.

What do i feel safe about revealing? It's changed. These days I'm good with name, city, type of job, hobbies, interests and showing off my wife and sons.

But like Susan said, we are all different. We have different circumstances, differing comfort levels, and vastly differing world views I'd wager.

It must be a balance. However, another balance factor to be considered is control. Now in this explosion of online information, much of which is available regardless of how much you share, it is important to establish who you are, be it a persona, a more real representation of yourself, or just a name. It's important because your future employers, coworkers, spouse, in-laws, and that snot nosed kid down the street are looking you up, viewing your pics, and reading what you write.

Weighing all that, I find it easiest to be honest, even tempered and modest all at once...if I can pull it. off.

So ending this rant, my advice is balance, and moderation. Do what you feel safe with, but share with confidence that what you say about yourself will be heard. :)

Tojosan said...

PS...if you are ever near St. Louis, give me a shout in advance, I'll join you for lunch, dinner or have you over to the house to visit my wife.

Lloyd said...

Hey Goldie, I'm at the more permissive, liberal end of the spectrum. Here's what I wrote about it a couple of months ago:


Boiled down, it's about being conscious of one's own boundaries, respecting everyone else's right to think and behave differently and how we negotiate those differences in order to get along well. That's my approach to real life and it's what I try to practice online too - though sometimes I will mess up.

One of the things I find interesting is the way that I feel I've got a more immediate idea of who people are through Seesmic. All those visual cues really are important and they add so much to the picture one forms of someone by reading their writing, or even hearing their voice.

I love what you do with Seesmic and I'm warmed by your sense of fun and the laugh that's always just below the surface ready to burst out. And that goes for @ledretch & @fred2baro too

Seesmic ya later!

Lloyd said...

that durned blogger, messin' wid ma links...

This is my post on the subject