P&P: swinging Lizzie

Internet Identity Crisis

I started using the internet back when no one was really quite sure what it was and how to negotiate its complexities. The catchcry was ‘safety’, the warning phrase, ‘anyone could be out there’. My parents constantly warned me not to give out my name or address, or any other identifying details. You never knew who people were.

The internet today is so much different. Everyone’s on it, and everyone’s using their real names. It’s those who didn’t get an internet education in the mid- to late-nineties who don’t know how to use Facebook’s privacy settings, because the rest of us are all too wary about what we make public. You can still pretend to be someone you’re not, but you’ll probably also have your ‘real’ self somewhere.

I feel like I’ve constructed at least two identities that persist today (without getting into the screennames I used to have – ah, screennames. That’s another word on its way out, going to join ICQ and AIM and Hotmail in the garbage chute of the internet). There’s saffronlie, screaming fangirl, and there’s My Real Name, semi-professional.

I’m at a point where I’d almost like to merge the two. Fandom isn’t quite the liability it once was. Fanfiction has almost gone mainstream, and a predilection for a 90s-era long-haired band or erotic vampire novels isn’t quite the shameful thing it might once have been. We’ve all got our junk, and the internet gives every one of us a place where we can meet people who share that junk.

In my chosen field, blogging is huge. Academic blogging is a vast community itself, and my field within that even more so. It’s not a bad thing to be in the field and on the internet, rather, it's a bonus. Some people still hide their names and details, but many more are out and proud, so to speak. There’s disagreement over whether hiring committees are savvy enough to appreciate one’s internet experience, but generally it seems like the benefits of online networking outweigh any downsides.

Where does that leave me? I don’t actually want to maintain an academic blog, but I’d kind of like to be able to talk more about my field, here or elsewhere, and comment elsewhere without being ashamed of LJ being my main blog. I’m by no means a newbie to blogging and social networking. I don’t want to start again, whether under my real name or another. I like my very small niche over here. I like the tiny reputation that I’ve made for myself in the VC fandom, with fic and moderating vc_media.

And I really like LiveJournal. I like that I can assume, albeit not-quite-correctly, that I know who’s out there and reading my posts. My public posts are, obviously, open to lurkers and the vastness of the internet, but I can choose who sees posts that I prefer to lock. Sure, it’s not completely secure: someone could copy those posts and paste them elsewhere, although I’m not sure why they would. But for the most part, this is my space. This is the blog with several years’ worth of crap fanfiction and terrible whinging about adolescent concerns. This is where I can both express myself and control my image. I don’t want to move from here, but do I want to open myself up more here?

With Twitter and Google+ I really feel like I have the right tools, for me, to build both a professional yet somewhat personal online presence. Google+, in particular, has all sorts of possibilities for content-sharing at different levels much like LJ’s friends’ groups options. Google+ has me under a real name; Twitter, almost-but-not-quite. If I link all these together, will I regret it? Should I remove the fanfiction, or change my LJ username? Sometimes I don’t want to deny my online activities because I think they can almost serve as quite a good indicator of my real-world social skills: I write, I comment, I discuss. I organise and I lead where necessary.

Part of using social media is knowing how to get it right. Anyone can start a Twitter account, but it takes some skill to use it to the advantage of your organisation, to develop a unified voice and make Twitter work for you. I know my way around the internet, but I also know that some things are better left private. I just can’t decide if that includes my LiveJournal.

Comments

I've been thinking about this stuff lately, and I'm actually going to switch to a new LJ account for most purposes soon.

Part of it's the Tiny Country thing - I've met someone on LJ whose family turned out to know mine/who went to my school. Which was cool (wouldn't have friended her if she'd been my age), and I'm glad we're friends, but it made me remove some country/locality signifiers from my profile, knowing how identifiable I'd be to an acquaintance who randomly came across it.

But the work thing is really why I'm switching - my fan and pro lives wouldn't mesh well, and having used this account on buy/sell comms where people exchange RL details on Paypal, I feel there's too many people who could one day link all my LJ over-sharing (on health comms, and ranty fannish ones, f'rinstance) with Pro Me.

It's not that I think I'm Famous For My Work (though I am ambitious)... just that I've been stalked online, which heightened my awareness that it only takes one disturbed and/or vindictive person who accidentally connects work me to embarrassing LJ me.

None of which should imply criticism of your choice - it sounds like a different situation where the benefits would outweigh the drawbacks. It's more musing on how weird all this is - that we created identities in a context that has changed so spectacularly. I'm kind of glad we didn't know how the internet would change, back then - if I'd been more inhibited I'd never have made the friends I have... :)
That's a big step to make. I'm quite interested in the switch: will you maintain the two accounts or abandon this one? Will you take your fandom friends with you, or try to maintain some distance? This is probably a good choice to make, and I'm pleased that you've been able to make it and protect yourself.
I'll keep this one alive for maintaining the odd comm I've made with it and posting on the selling comm where I have a reputation, but at some point I'll probably hand all of that off to another account which will just be for those functions. Long-term, I'll never delete pandorasblog but I'll private-ize the entries.

But NewAccount will have all the friends I have now, and will basically be what my current account is - a chance to be fannish and deal with health TMI on the internet, but without mentioning anything outside of my own journal that could narrow down the region of the UK where I live/otherwise use unique signifiers.

Part of the plan is to ask friends, when adding the new account, NOT to refer to NewAccount as pandorasblog or by my actual name, because a distinctive name is a PITA when it comes to anonymising...
Excellent post. It is a strange world we're in, isn't it? I love the privacy of the internet, because it allows me to be so very public. I can write freely here about things I'd almost never talk about IRL (sexuality, fandom, mental illness, etc). And it's so easy to compartmentalize online life. I'm an active user and a moderator on a parenting board (and given that I'm a SAHM, I guess that counts as professional life??? :/ ), but there's a lot I don't reveal there. LJ is more like my "real" life - though actually there are parenting things I wouldn't talk about here, because I have so many non-parent friends here, and the parenting stuff would either be incredibly boring or come across the wrong way to non-parents. Either way, I have NO interest in social media and being out there under my real name.

But of course, I'd probably have to change my mind about that if, like you, I need to use my real name for work. Good luck navigating it all. (And I wonder what the scene will be like in another 10 years or so!)
Aw, interesting how you're already kind of split, with what you reveal on LJ as oppose to what you reveal on a parenting board. I have a RL friend who, from what I can gather, also moderates some kind of internet parenting community, and has several internet-to-real-life friends connected to that community. That's all I know though, and it's been tempting to try to figure out more as she's been having massive personal issues lately, and I've wondered if perhaps she was more open about it on the internet than she has been with us. But there's no way I would actually try to breach her privacy like that; I respect her and the boundaries she's set up for herself. There is something fascinating about what people choose to share online. I know for a while my siblings would check my LJ and make fun of it, and for all I know my parents figured it out from when I lived at home and was lax about security on shared computers. Meanwhile my boyfriend used to have an LJ, which he 'fessed up to and let me read (it was not juicy), but he says he has no interest in reading mine and is happy to leave it to be my space.
OK, my opinion on this (but I'm a little uptight and image obssessed ;) is: on my course, we have a blog to promote our work because indeed an online presence is important these days, particularly in culture/academia/freelancing and such. And it pisses me off big time when one of my classmates talks about her family on her art blog. WTF has it got to do with it? It sounds unprofessional, like she did not do her homework research about how to use her blog. That's just my opinion.

If I did, say, a proper critique on the cinematography in IWTV, and shit , that would be appropriate because it's so stunning, I'd put it on my art blog, I'm not ashamed of liking IWTV. the same I put a Kenneth anger video with naked sailors getting it on, but it was in a critical context. I'm not ashamed of having something with gay blokes on my professional blog, but there is a good reason for it to be on there. Writing L/L slash or fangirling over Kurt's sunglasses is not professional or critical. It's not shameful, it's fun, it makes me happy, but it won't advance my career.

What I'm trying to say is, I think you need to get another blog for professional purpose, whether on LJ or somewhere else. I'd suggest going to the platform where people in your field are already blogging. And your blog is mostly about your professional interests, but to give it a carchy personal edge, you can talk about your personal cultural interests in a critical way (never ina fangirly way) to show off that you're interested in culture outise of your research firld. that's just my personal opinion. also are you on linkedin? linkedin is a start though you need a blog someplace else.

The problem area for me is facebook where I have both casual friend and people I know strictly for networking. So I'd really like to put the 'interested in' and 'single' in case my friends found me someone, but then I don't because the networking people might be right wing christians for all I know, and I'm not blowing job opportunities. I'm a bit more casual and snarky on facebook, but only on subjects it's OK to be so for artists, such as politics. It's only here on LJ I talk about personal stuff really... But then I'm uptight and paranoid, lol!
Oh, you're absolutely right. If I want to seriously enter academic blogging, I will have to set up a whole new blog for that. LJ is simply not the place for professional blogging. However, at this stage, I don't actually want to do that. I'm still trying to work out what I want, but I think it might be this: to write about my work on public LJ posts when I want to without being worried about who might read. I don't want to direct new readers/academic bloggers here, but I don't want to be embarrassed should they stumble across this LJ and connect it to me. So I might have to lock some old posts or something.

That's a good idea for blogging though, to write about cultural interests critically. I'm not on LinkedIn but I suppose it's time to get with that. So far I've managed to avoid Facebook for networking but I can see how that would be a problem. You can control who sees what to some degree, but it's not as easy on FB as it is on LJ or Google+. It's all so difficult.
Merging the two for me is the scariest prospect ever, and I have a strong paranoia about anyone from my professional life and some from real life in general finding out about what I do on here because of my lingering shame for being a hopeless fangirl (even if that is completely ridiculous). I do use my real name for twitter and professional blogging, though, so I understand the interest in having one, simple internet identity. You are a brave soul indeed for considering this!
I think I'm going to "un-consider" it so cancel that 'brave'! Hehe. But it's good to know that you've managed to keep your professional identity and your fangirl identity separate. I agree that we shouldn't worry so much, but we're not being paranoid, given how the media loves to portray Twilight fans and all that.
I'm having trouble keeping my blog/twitter/google+/facebook seperate, since they all seem to connect back to my real name, but I'll always leave LJ off that list. It's a personal preference.

Even though I can filter out, say, my mom, I don't want to her to see my info, user groups, or know my LJ name, and that goes for most people.

I like having a place to bitch and moan when I need it, and to geek out at insane levels when I need it, but I don't need those things connected to the rest of the internet. That's just me though.
That's becoming how it is for me, too. I'd ideally like to keep LJ separate, but not worry so much about someone connecting it to my other identities. I guess that calls for some self-censorship, whether that means locking old posts or locking even more future posts. Like you, I need LJ sometimes for things I just can't do elsewhere.