A very eloquent and passionate treatise from 4chan’s Chris Poole on social networks, identity and how we represent ourselves online.
This is a topic I think about a lot, because I never know to explain myself to people on the web. I don’t think many of us are one-dimensional and we all have lots of interests. But mine are pretty woven into the fabric of how I live and so, when I move seamlessly from doing very technical things on the web to working with kids on the finer points of their tennis games — I see no disconnect. Other people have communicated to me at other times that this is strange to them; wondering “well what don’t you do?”
Talking specifically about the web, I have lots of places that I’ve been a member for well over a decade. Communities that I’m an active part of where there are — for better or worse — strangers whom I’ve interacted with for the better part of my adult life who know a lot about each other and are brought together for interest and love of a common (often obscure) hobby, passion or game. While these interactions are meaningful in context, they don’t necessarily translate to the day-to-day dealings of what I do. Nor should they, really.
Facebook is especially harrowing for me whenever I think about it. Here there is a pool of nearly 800 people with whom come from different aspects of my life at different times. There’s my favorite uncle and that kid from summer camp from a few months ago. My closest college friends and that girl from grade school that I haven’t seen in ten years but with whom it’s cool to “know how she’s doing.”
I digress, but that’s the challenge of trying to communicate your interests with disparate communities takes time, effort and becomes onerous. I’m not sure it’s the job of social networks to be tailored to the diverse ways in which we communicate or the ability to use say, a handle on a network is even the best way. But I do agree wholly that I have far richer interactions — and always have — on social mediums where I feel more anonymous, less exposed and more apt to communicate with the wider world without regard for pagerank, bios or who is going to take what I say out of context. It’s almost why I blog so little and why my real life friends are often bored by my internet persona via blogs.
It’s a contrast that I’m aware of and that Chris Poole articulates concisely in this speech.