The Dangers Of Letting Your Online Persona Do The TalkingLast week, while taking a break from work, I found myself reading through a friend’s personal blog. While everything was well written, and while the author herself did a careful job remaining anonymous to most of her readers, I couldn’t help but cringe at some of the stuff she was writing about. Personal stuff. Stuff that, once it’s out there, you just can’t take back.

Part of my cringing was due to the fact that about a year ago, I was right there with her. I’ve had a personal blog for years, and it used to be the one place where I could completely dump my emotions. A creative writer who has to work (on non-creative writing) quite a lot to pay the bills, I don’t always get to spend the hours a day I’d like to on my own pieces — so whenever I was itching to say something, and didn’t seem to have the time or energy to dive into a script or short story, I would unload on my personal blog.

I was anonymous back then, and didn’t feel the need to censor anything I wrote. After all, wasn’t that what blogs were for? Verbally drop-kicking people who hurt me, divulging my uneasy secrets to get them off my chest, saying everything I could never say in real life? Wasn’t that what the Internet was for? Finally — a way to be noticed without being called out.

But slowly, my opinion changed.

7 Comments to
The Dangers Of Letting Your Online Persona Do The Talking

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  1. ov spent years as site administrator troll and even paid to troll the troll for lower celebrities….:S wasn’t that fun….never underestimate the entertainment value of the mundane my life is boring as hell yet I have people in stitches with my youngest antics most days….

    don’t take life too seriously….it will bite back..

    anyway I happily rant and tear down fools with my name attached….fury in many cases is necessary to fuel change…..

    there is a great deal in this world which is simply wrong….if we don’t speak out who will….it is words and words are far mightier than the sword…but in the vast majority of cases provided you are sensible they wont get you arrested…well except in this state it is illegal to swear….

    *sigh* $&(@$^Y there goes the relief of spitting venom at the clouds…..

    • :anyway I happily rant and tear down fools with my name attached….

      Ditto!

      :fury in many cases is necessary to fuel change…..

      As is mockery and ridicule. . .

      :there is a great deal in this world which is simply wrong….

      Of course.

      :if we don’t speak out who will….

      Good question. . .

      :it is words and words are far mightier than the sword…

      :but in the vast majority of cases provided you are sensible they wont get you arrested…

      Sometime words will get you arrested even if you are reasonably sensible. . .

      http://www.montrealmirror.com/ARCHIVES/2000/120700/news5.html

      Thankfully it is *conviction* that counts and I was rightly acquitted. :-)

      :well except in this state it is illegal to swear…

      And where might that be?

  2. What a powerful post! i totally agree with you! I have a personal blog, but thankfully i use mine as a source of motivation, as well as my FB account. As much as i cannot control what other people write on my wall, i do have control over moderating it – i have deleted peopled, removed comments and constantly remind myself that i want to be just what you have said: a representation online of who i am in real life. I hope everyone can read your post!
    Many people really don’t realize how detrimental words can be…how powerful they are and sometimes how permanent they can be as well.

  3. Great post Jessica.

    I’ve long been fascinated with the persona’s and social dynamics of online worlds.

    Psychologists it seems can spot narcissists from their posts and profiles. Sure, we all put our best foot out there on Facebook, but anything we blog, write, post, text, it ALL ties into who we are, communicates our persona. We archive ourselves and imprint our personalities in the online world.

    We convey ourselves in what and HOW we say something in person, so we certainly convey ourselves to some degree, by what we post. If I post ugly or constant complaining or nasty or vile or inflammatory posts, this is “who I am” to the world, even if a friend sees otherwise in me in person. Although, I believe the online persona and our one are the same.

    Brag online? Brag in person. Engage in political and religious poking online? Likely you do so in person. Why would we transform our identities online unless we’re on a dating service trying to fool the world. While we tend to post only the cream of the crop in our lives on Facebook, readers read between the lines, readers read between the lines.

    When I teach my daughter how to engage on Facebook I explain not to post anything she doesn’t want defining or haunting her the rest of her life. Her 13 year old eyes roll, but I think she gets it. I also explain never to post pics of others she would not want posted of herself.

    The Golden Rule should apply to ALL forms of communication, which is not to suggest that bloggers, pundits need to write “nicely,” only that they need to understand the potential impact of their words.

    We are increasingly defined by our online communication via Twitter, Facebook, texting, etc because social media and online communication is no longer an alternate mode of communication, they are becoming THE forms of communication.

    Online worlds let us tell the world who we are, but given the safe distance and at times anonymity, we’re losing the essence of what makes in person, on the phone, communication an far more sensitive form of exchange between people.

    I might sound a bit paranoid but I think as a society we need to put in check our increasing reliance on “removed communication” and add a layer of pause, and sensitivity before we hit “Publish.”

    Online communication may be de-sensitizing people to how our words genuinely impact others. When we stand before someone we are aware of their eyes looking at us and what that means to our exchange and relationship.

    Behind our screens, we lose that human accountability.

    Laura

    Emoticons, tone, content certainly, these create our online persona just as the nuances do during our in person conversation, more so actually, because without the face to face advantage of a chuckle, soft tilt of the head to convey empathy, a twinkle of our eyes to convey soft rather than harsh sarcasm, our actual tone, a person isn’t quite sure if that “slam” on line was meant to be funny, or hurtful.

    Laura

    • :Psychologists it seems can spot narcissists from their posts and profiles.

      To say nothing of their Flickr accounts. :-)

      Believe me I could link to one here. . .

      :Sure, we all put our best foot out there on Facebook, but anything we blog, write, post, text, it ALL ties into who we are, communicates our persona. We archive ourselves and imprint our personalities in the online world.

      That is true but one’s online persona might be quite different from how one behaves in “real life”. Think Wizard of Oz here. . . There IS such a thing as *acting* up and/or out.

      :We convey ourselves in what and HOW we say something in person, so we certainly convey ourselves to some degree, by what we post. If I post ugly or constant complaining or nasty or vile or inflammatory posts, this is “who I am” to the world, even if a friend sees otherwise in me in person. Although, I believe the online persona and our one are the same.

      Not necessarily. Someone who is normally very polite and civil in “real life” may well be retaliating for online insults & abuse in the hopes of persuading the abusers to tone down *their* act.

      :Brag online? Brag in person. Engage in political and religious poking online? Likely you do so in person.

      See above. I “poke” U*Us (as it were) because Unitarian*Universalist “religious leaders” have expressly tolerated, and even callously condoned, the “insulting and defamatory language” and other verbal and psychological abuse of “less than polite” U*U clergy. I went through “proper channels” with clergy misconduct complaints and not only “got nowhere” but was subjected to additional insults and abuse, and even punitive measures. Other people have met with the same or similar treatment from U*U clergy and their UUA enablers, and of course such abuses of power and worse occur in other religious communities.

      :Why would we transform our identities online unless we’re on a dating service trying to fool the world.

      Amongst other reasons, to teach someone a lesson or two. . .

      :When I teach my daughter how to engage on Facebook I explain not to post anything she doesn’t want defining or haunting her the rest of her life. Her 13 year old eyes roll, but I think she gets it.

      Unfortunately 43 year old (and older) Unitarian*Universalist ministers, and the UUA administrators who are their enablers and often clergy too, just don’t get it. . .

      Read this and weep -

      “It is the case that in this situation the minister’s blog is anonymous ( though you were able to identify the individual) and that she is free to express her opinions and to do so outside of her professional role as a minister serving a congregation.”

      From this blog post of a complete email string -

      http://emersonavenger.blogspot.com/2007/01/how-rev-dr-tracey-robinson-harris.html

      :I also explain never to post pics of others she would not want posted of herself.

      Tell that to Peacebang aka Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein who is on a bit of a picture posting rampage at the moment. . .

      http://beautytipsforministers.com/2011/07/30/london-models/

      She has apparently deleted aka “memory holed” her worst offences as is her wont. . .

      For the record I “outed” Peacebang as Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein (or vice versa) after she repeatedly insulted and defamed and otherwise verbally abused people on her pseudonymous blog which was *not* attached to her real name but did identify her as a Unitarian Universalist “small town pastor”. I had to do some online detective work to uncover Peacebang’s identity and, when I did, I found out even worse things about her and her “historic New England Unitarian Universalist church.”

      :The Golden Rule should apply to ALL forms of communication, which is not to suggest that bloggers, pundits need to write “nicely,” only that they need to understand the potential impact of their words.

      Be assured that I fully understand the potential impact of my words. I am not sure if Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein and her negligent and irresponsible, to say nothing of complicit. . . UUA enablers understand the potential impact of her words. If they do they are well beyond just being irresponsible.

      :We are increasingly defined by our online communication via Twitter, Facebook, texting, etc because social media and online communication is no longer an alternate mode of communication, they are becoming THE forms of communication.

      Very true but people *should* understand that a person’s online persona may not always accurately reflect how they behave offline in “RL”, although I will concede that very often there is considerable overlap. . .

      :Online worlds let us tell the world who we are, but given the safe distance and at times anonymity, we’re losing the essence of what makes in person, on the phone, communication an far more sensitive form of exchange between people.

      Agreed. Tone of voice is very important in conversations and is all but completely lacking from the written word. Even ALL CAPS “shouting” does not necessarily reflect how a person would actually say some things orally.

      :I might sound a bit paranoid but I think as a society we need to put in check our increasing reliance on “removed communication” and add a layer of pause, and sensitivity before we hit “Publish.”

      I agree in principle but, when one is already involved in an online “cat-fight”, sensitivity (like Truth) is usually the first casualty in any “war of words.”

      :Online communication may be de-sensitizing people to how our words genuinely impact others.

      Apparently so, but *some* people are pretty damned insensitive to begin with. . .

      :When we stand before someone we are aware of their eyes looking at us and what that means to our exchange and relationship.

      *Some* people couldn’t care less about that.

      :Behind our screens, we lose that human accountability.

      Especially when one is hiding behind the cowardly cover of internet anonymity and pseudonymity that is not attached to one’s real name. Again, Wizard of Oz Syndrome as I call it, hence the name for my Wonderful Wizard Of U*Us blog which is actually one of my “good cop” blogs. :-)

      :Emoticons, tone, content certainly, these create our online persona just as the nuances do during our in person conversation, more so actually, because without the face to face advantage of a chuckle, soft tilt of the head to convey empathy, a twinkle of our eyes to convey soft rather than harsh sarcasm, our actual tone, a person isn’t quite sure if that “slam” on line was meant to be funny, or hurtful.

      Emoticons *can* be helpful, but they can also be Emoti*cons* as it were, just as *some* real life smiles are anything but genuinely friendly. Right?

      Robin Edgar aka The Emerson Avenger

  4. Jessica, I appreciate your thoughts. Today on Google+, someone else posted an article that had the marketing person on Facebook saying that anonymity should go away. I disagree. I think there is a place for anonymity.

    For those who are annoyed with anonymous comments (trolls), then either block them or delete them. They don’t have to stay on one’s blog or website. We also usually have the option to flag a comment or report it to the website.

    That said, I believe in the freedom of speech, even when people’s feelings get hurt or they’re offended. Quite frankly, I’m sick of the “politically-correct” crap that is forced upon sites under the guise of a “non-bullying” agenda.

    I loathe bullies just like anyone else, but if someone has a viewpoint different from mine and expresses it passionately – and EVEN if they call me a complete idiot for believing what I believe – more power to them. Seriously. We live in a country that should tolerate that kind of difference. In other countries, that freedom doesn’t exist. China is one that immediately comes to mind. But it would seem that such speech is getting labeled “hate speech” more and more.

    I definitely appreciate you and others taking a more thoughtful look at how you respond online. I try to do the same. But there still exist certain sites where people are afraid to allow their “real names” into the discussion. Why? Because sociopaths have stalked them and called their employer with the intent of getting them fired. And some have succeeded.

    I guess I’m a little tired of the “anonymous” posts getting a bad rap. Yes, some abuse the option. But not every anonymous poster (or someone using a screen name) has the intent on ripping someone’s head off. Sometimes they just want to avoid getting harassed for having an unpopular viewpoint.

  5. Well written piece. The ‘comment haters’, for lack of using a censored term, add little to nothing to the dialogue, but perhaps they are filling some unmet need or boosting their own self-esteem. I stopped trying to figure out, but simply try and find the shreds of decency within their comments to reply to. Thanks for your post. I enjoyed it.

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