In the past week it has been very bemusing to me to find that people believe that the Internet is the whole story. Even people who know me well, and know that I am well aware that anything posted on the Internet will exist forever; seem to assume that I would be posting the full details of my health and current situation.
A blog is for sharing thoughts and ideas. It’s not, in my mind, an appropriate place for explicit details.
My posts will never include anything about myself that I am not comfortable sharing totally publicly. Whether that’s to protect my privacy or that of others.
Just in case you haven’t realised it – the Internet is public! Anything posted on it, even in a private Facebook group, is accessible by others. It’s also permanent. There is no way to completely delete anything posted ever.
You might make it much harder for people to find. You might make it so that they have to know it’s there to look for it. However, search engines are constantly archiving and indexing content.
As an example, there are sites that have information on them relating to past positions that I have held, or papers and talks that I have given at conferences, that hold out-of-date contact information on me. It’s impossible for me to get these corrected or updated.
Partly, this is because those sites are old and the people who used to manage the content are no longer in those positions or don’t have access to the sites anymore in terms of changing the content.
Sometimes, it’s more that they are an historical archive. The problem is that people aren’t great at dating everything on the Internet.
Therefore, if you search for my full name you will find current information as well as old information regarding my academic affiliations. For those that don’t actually know me it can be hard for people to find the current data.
Hopefully, people who know me in real life will also know my current affiliations which will help them narrow their search focus or they’ll be connected with me on LinkedIn which I do keep current.
Anyway, my point is – please don’t forget that the Internet is only ever one facet of a person’s character and personality. It’s the facet of themselves that they’re willing to make fully public whether intentionally or inadvertently.
Some people like to share the minute details of their day down to what they eat at every meal. For many of us though the Internet is a means of communication. It presents part of a story and not the whole.
To understand the whole, you need to spend time with the real person, and have a shared understanding. There needs to be communication and dialogue. This can be mediated by technology and doesn’t always have to be in person, but there’s nothing quite like being able to watch somebody’s face as they speak to understand the nuances and meanings of what’s being said.
As somebody who reveres honesty I didn’t join Facebook for many years and even then I initially had a very simple account. Over time, and with being housebound now or months, I am more involved and active on Facebook than I was.
However, I will still not post anything that I don’t want to be public, even in private groups. There are too many stories of people breaking the ‘rules’ and sharing things outside of the group. Further, Facebook itself can always see anything I post. So I limit my posts on Facebook.
I have a limited Twitter account. I do use LinkedIn to keep my professional colleagues informed as to how to contact me. Beyond that, this Blog is a place for me to experiment with my non-academic writing.
As such, writers are challenged to write from what they know. So at times, my Blog includes personal information such as issues with my health or my wishes for my life like my Bucket List posts.
However, if you want to know ‘Me’ – you need to talk to ‘me’ and not just base your conclusions and understanding of me on one representation of a facet of my personality.
My Blog gives you a peep at who I am. It will never tell you the whole story.
I struggled this week with whether or not this is dishonest. I’m still debating that. Is it better to have a public presence and this forum to explore my non-academic writing in? Or should I delete (as much as possible) all online presence because others can’t distinguish between an online view on who I am and the reality?
It’s not that my online presence is a lie or a distortion of me. I’m not pretending to be a slim 20 something blonde; I am what I am. It’s just that online I will only ever present part of who I am.
I’ll only ever discuss aspects of my health saga and situation. Sometimes that’s because I do try and look at things as positively as possible and if I posted the full story it would often be far too depressing to write, let alone for others to read! At other times, it’s simply to protect my own privacy, or others.
I guess what I’m saying is to be careful. Don’t assume that you ‘know’ somebody based on the Internet alone. Remember that people don’t know the real ‘you’ based on what you post alone. We are rich, complex human beings with many facets to our personalities and constantly changing as we go through life.
I am not the same person today that I was yesterday or that I will be tomorrow. I think that’s a good thing. However, the Internet is static. It’s a series of snapshots of specific points in time.
It’s interesting even now to go back and see what I posted 6 months ago when I posted this Blog and to think about how I’d write it today. Some things would be identical. Others, I’d now approach very differently.
However, you wouldn’t know that by just reading my posts. You’d only know that by being in relationship with me.
So I ask you to remember, that if you’re reading my Blog I appreciate you, I thank you for your time, but please remember that you don’t know ‘Me’ based on this alone.