social identity – moving forward

About a month ago i wrote an entry about some of the challenges that have cropped up from having multiple social identities. I’ve had the opportunity to think more about the direction that i feel i should take with my various social footprints on the web and thought it was worth writing about to share some of the how and why of my social identity conception moving forward.

We’ll start with the two blogs that i maintain, because although those are already pretty defined in my head, i’m going to adjust and refine the role that my blogs have to be an even greater separation between my professional and “conceptual” entries which will live on versus my life entries and “specialized” entries which will live on my livejournal. Before, my LJ served multiple purposes – it involved things going on in my life, but i also used it as a “short thoughts” blog, an “ideas” blog, a movie/game/tv review blog, things of that sort of nature. I still feel like it’s more appropriate to house my life and any random movie/game/tv reviews in that context, but i’m going to shift most of my “short thoughts” and “ideas” content to here, as well as some life stuff that may involve my schedule as it relates to creative projects or creative processes.

I’m doing this for a couple of reasons. One, I feel like this site needs to have more activity, that this should become a more important hub for my public presence, and hopefully shifting some of what used to be LJ activity will help with that. Two, I’m trying to encourage myself to write more about my Actual Life on my LJ which wasn’t exactly the idea when i first started my LJ but has leaned more towards that in the past year and I want to continue. There’s a multi-layered motivation for doing this related to a couple of events that happened over the summer which i may discuss in a separate post on my LJ.

That’s the easy stuff. Now we come to Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus. Each of these needs to be addressed in two respects – as a contributor and as a reader. I’ll address each service separately.

Twitter: Originally I created a Twitter account as a means of shifting the concept of “status messages” from facebook to a paradigm where i felt it better fit. (in case you missed it, i wrote about why.) I then ported over selective statuses to fb by using “Selective Tweets.” Since that time, I’ve activated some privacy protocols that makes Selective Tweets not work, and i’ve relaxed my stance concerning the value of fb statuses as it relates to my fb page. So Twitter became a more nebulous space as a contributor, and with the inclusion of google plus, i started to use my twitter less and less, seeing g+ as a preferred method of posting random microblog bursts.

A part of me feels like I could abandon Twitter altogether, but a greater part of me feels like that’s the wrong thing to do. Twitter is a great tool with some key sets of expectation that isn’t met by any other social media. So in order to make myself more proactive in that realm, i need to create a definition for how i want to use it and brand myself in its use.

There are a few common paradigms for twitter use, and many of them are ones that I reject. I don’t want my twitter to be a personal advertising space. Neither do i want my twitter to be a conduit for my other presence on the web or for the “check-in” concept that’s promoted by the likes of foursquare or yelp.

So i think i’m going to use it in the way it used when it first existed: as a space for short life bursts. I’m also going to experiment with tweeting exclusively from a smart phone, considering it more of an on-the-go kind of thing.

Out of all of my social media, twitter will probably be my lowest priority when it comes to reading. I have a manageable list of people that i’m following, but some of the regular twitterers use it more as a conduit space than a speaking space, and that sort of tweeting to me is clutter and pollution that I don’t like filtering through. Check-ins are annoying because i don’t really care where people are. redirects or link postings are annoying because without having context that twitter can’t provide it’s a coin-toss whether or not i’d find the link worthwhile. Not that i’ll never read twitter ever, but i don’t feel an overwhelming need to stay on top of it.

Facebook: i was a relative latecomer to the facebook generation and have never been afraid to voice my opinions about what i feel are the big positives and negatives of facebook. I don’t hate it, but i am always mindful of some of its huge pitfalls and approach my use of it both as a contributor and a reader with a high degree of wariness.

what value i get from facebook as a reliable virtual rolodex, the kind of created culture that it represents, and the role it plays in my social presence as a personal broadcaster and a professional broadcaster through the marching band is too important for me to abandon facebook despite the fact that I don’t actually like it all that much. The recent facebook release in particular is problematic because there are now too many decisions about visual design and priority of content that are made for me behind the scenes, and those decisions are deliberately designed to be difficult to change. (i addressed this in the latter part of the aforementioned “social identity problems” post if you’re interested in the specifics).

What does this mean for me as a contributor and user of facebook now?

As a reader, what i want to happen is to be able to capture a slice of time of whatever happens to be on my news feed of the time of all 1000ish of my friends and be content with that. This means that i should probably do a similar thing that Mark did with his and do the painstaking work of changing all of my friends subscriptions to “all” posts instead of “most” posts (which i can unfortunately only do one friend at a time).

As a contributor, honestly, i still don’t have a great answer. I’ve decided that I still want my facebook to be pretty much All Surface and start to conceive of my google plus as being a potentially more intimate social atmosphere, something that can be inbetween facebook and livejournal, but exactly how that plays out practically is still yet to be defined. It still feels right for me to use fb as a conduit for my other social presence, but google plus has that place too, and i’m not sure how to achieve balance in how that could be used across both social mediums. It could be something as simple as “LJ entries go on fb, mendellee entries go on g+”, but with the power of g+’s circles allowing for more flexibility in that, that feels like an easy-but-not-quite-right answer that with a little work could be better defined and honed.

speaking of which.

google plus: in comparison to both twitter and facebook, my google plus feed is somewhat of a ghost town, and contrary to this being a deterrent, it’s rather a nice breath of fresh air. The problem is that if i want to try to shift more of my contributions and reading to google plus, it could easily end up feeling as unmanageable as facebook can be, both in the way i choose to write and the way i choose to read.

This is where i think careful manipulation of my circles will come into play. Right now i have a lot of incredibly impractical circle definitions that all need a complete revamp. At a basic level, i need to create two kinds of circles: “reading” circles and “filtering” circles. Reading circles don’t need to be defined right now because my traffic isn’t high enough, but a part of me is starting to feel like the best way to deal with reading circles has to do with the frequency of a poster. Prolific posters will get one circle, once a week posters will get another, once a month will get another, and some levels in between based on the amount of traffic. The main purpose/function of this would be to ensure that amidst the regular g+’ers i don’t miss something from a user that sticks a singular post within the busy throngs, which is philosophically closer to how i treat livejournal (everything that’s written on my friends page/circles stream is important) rather than twitter or facebook (all i care about is what happens to be going on at the moment).

As far as filtering, the only one that’s currently important to define is current students versus non-current students to help create that necessary separation between personal and professional. Beyond that, defining filtering circles is more difficult because a part of me feels like it should be as much in the hands of those who are reading me as myself. It may be that i won’t mind sharing more intimate details with person A and B, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they want to actually hear it, and i want to be able to respect that.

Practically that’s a difficult thing to address. It’s fine if i just deal with the people who are in my “reading” circles now, but when someone new comes along, they don’t have a conception of how i could be using circles well enough to know how to fit in mine, and it’s counterintuitive to me to put someone who just added me into their circles through a equivalent of a detailed questionnaire just to put them into my circles. That’s just obnoxious.

That side of it is full of conjecture anyway because i’m not sure exactly how intimate of a space i can put myself into online in the first place – even in a relatively comfortable setting like livejournal i tend to hold back on things that make me feel weak or vulnerable. There’s a couple periods of my life where i went through some intense emotional trauma that still impacts my life outlook today, but to most of the world that trauma is invisible – as well it should be. That sort of stuff is not meant to be publicized no matter how close or intimate a “circle” can be. But as with all things, there’s a wide spectrum between extremes that can be explored and toyed with, and google plus is where that potential can be.

The other potential choice of “filtering” circles has to do with conduits. As in, if i start to use g+ in a conduit way like i use fb to publish videos, LJ posts, and posts, i can create circles specifically for those so that those who have no interest in being a part of my conduit world won’t see that stuff. So if you have absolutely no interest in seeing when i post up LJ posts because, say, you’re already my LJ friend or you just don’t care about my life in that sort of detail, you don’t go into the LJ circle which is the only way that you’ll see that stuff appear on my feed. Of course, this leaves out “lurkers” from being able to see whenever i post to LJ, and highlights one of the other issues of filtering circles in general which is that filtering circles necessitates a mutual relationship when maybe i don’t want it to be. If a stranger decides to follow me on g+, adding them to a circle kind of means that i’m following them back; sure, i can stick them into a circle full of people that i’ll never read, but that reeks of subterfuge to my virtual nose and i don’t want to be associated with that sort of virtual smell.

We’ll see how all of this develops; in any case, it’s a starting point, a way to more clearly define my roles in all of these mediums and start to use all of them to their fullest potential (at least for me). As these roles take shape over time, i’m sure some small and big adjustments will be made. If it’s significant and interesting enough for me to talk about, i’m sure another entry will pop here.

One Comment

  1. Pingback:social media dilution revisited » mendel lee . com

Leave a Reply!