I wonder what it must be like to have grown up post-Facebook. I remember my daughter had an account very early on. In those days, the social network was intimate, conversations and automated interactions modeled on the murmur of school hallways.
These days, well, you know.
But if we back up a bit, the story extends far beyond Facebook. Don’t many of us now sustain lots of online dialogue in our minds? Don’t we have ideas of our online friends as vivid as the memories of people we had lunch with on, say, Tuesday? So the networked world has exploded open our horizons.
As we feel our communities grow, I have no doubt we experience our selves differently too.
You all know I walk to work most days, through the streets of San Francisco. I remember doing the same as an adolescent, distressed and overwhelmed by Tenderloin catcalls. Then again as a grown woman, focused on where I was going. But now, as I walk, when people look in my face I sometimes wonder if they recognize me from the blog. Their eyes seem to imply more than, “I like her scarf.” Or, “I wonder how old she is?” Or, “Do not take my space, woman!” Whether the recognition is real or imagined, my blog comes with me through the world. I like that.
Let’s be clear. I am in no way a public figure. Even so, I have been recognized a few times. Only once did anyone stop me, rather than inform me later online what had happened. It was commenter, who goes here by rb. She said in the crosswalk, “I know you!” Funny thing is, I’d just noticed her cool shoes. I think they were Tsubo, or maybe Fluevogs. We had lunch, later.
If you were sentient in the 80s, you will remember the Seinfeld episode about Worlds Colliding. I have found the collisions to create energy, in a sort of identity nuclear fusion. One’s sense of self extends in a moment.
This extension happens differently, depending on whether you are anonymous online, or identified. When I first started writing, and for a long time after, I kept my face and name quiet. Here’s the first post I ever wrote. Here’s the first picture of myself I ever made public.
So in the early days, anonymity brought freedom. I explored issues that I’d been too embarrassed ever to discuss. Then, one day, Penelope Trunk outed me. I had known she was going to. I had asked all my family if they minded, since our last name is rare and therefore revealing.
Ever since, I’ve simply been me. Me here. Me on the streets. Me on Twitter. This is a freedom of a different sort. The synthesis of what I wrote behind anonymity, and what I write and photograph out in the open, has enriched my life and my sense of self more than I can articulate.
And as you know, I am a talker. Thank you for listening.
I sense we are not finished with the impact of the social Internet. I feel very lucky to have lived the shift across society and self. I think it’s very much like having been born in the days of the horse and buggy, yet surviving to see the automobile.
Even highways. Even freeways and their high gray cloverleafs.
If you pass me or any other blogger you recognize, I think you should feel free to say hello. If I remember, rb told me it felt odd to use the words “know someone,” in this scenario. But I think it’s not that we don’t know each other online, it’s that knowing another person in and of itself is changing.
Have a wonderful weekend.
In case you want a soundtrack. Dionne Warwick.