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.