A month ago my best friend and roommate Kris started a blog and got onto Twitter. He is a procrastinating playwright, among other things (poet, cabaret artist, award-winning actor and director, teacher…), who is currently running away from a very fine play he has started called 10 Mile. He is a storyteller and general pontificator in the grandest Deep South tradition. Discovering a medium where it is permissable to not-edit and not-judge and not-worry about writing has been a watershed experience for him. He is committed to his blog with an energy and enthusiasm I have rarely seen, set free of the torment and conflict that accompanies other kinds of writing. And now he is linking to this blog on his site. Currently the link is titled “best librarian in the entire world (wide web),” and he is posting excerpts from my blog.
One of the things I struggle with is creating with and managing online identity, and subsequently privacy. I consider my online life to be largely a professional life, but as I said at CiL2009 on the Managing Identity on Social Networks panel, I believe it is not possible to truly separate the professional and personal. Generally my approach has been to use privacy settings and judicious boundaries to control my identity online. Perhaps it goes without saying that Kris has a vastly different idea of judicious.
So once again, I’m back at the drawing board. As his editor, I would never want to stifle his creativity. There isn’t really anything wrong at all with his blog or his right to mention me or our life in it. It’s just not what I expected. At the same time that Kris has come into his own online, my family has gained momentum on Facebook. I now have 18 people on my mother’s side alone on Facebook. That’s right. Eighteen people. It was one thing when my brother or sister-in-law made the occasional comment on my Facebook page. It’s an entirely different thing to have my mother, cousins, aunts and uncles omnipresent.
So I’m calling it a developmental challenge…and I’m testing out my theory that creating and managing identity online is a series of developmental challenges that are necessary for growth. I’m just not exactly certain what that involves.
One of the things I’ve learned is that there is a challenge to the real-life relationship that goes along with these online developments. I’ve had conversations with my mother about what I want people to see about me on my Facebook page. I helped calm her anxiety about the difference between her news feed and her Wall when unexpected things appeared. I even deleted a Wall comment from my aunt that I thought revealed too much information about my grandmother. Now we are all on a private family Facebook Group, where we can share pictures and stories without the world watching.
And Kris. The respect we have for each other in person extends to the online world. And why wouldn’t it? Protecting and nurturing his creativity is a mission I have taken on with joy and great relish. And he is inordinately proud of my work and would never ever want to embarrass me. So every day, just like with the rest of his work, he reads his blogs aloud to me when I get home. He looks for my reaction as his editor and his friend. But if he’s used my name or a story about me, he’s looking for something more. Really we are all working together to find our balance.