January 13, 2011
“Never write anything down that you wouldn’t be proud to show a nun,” my mother once advised me. Curious advice for a then seven-year-old, but she saw the sparks of my word-smithing passion early.
To divulge or not to divulge. That is the question in our Web 2.0 lives.
Lately I have been fascinated with the concept of our digital selves as social media and the notion of transparency continue to shape the public relations industry (of which I am a part). We reveal what seem to be our deepest secrets (I prefer dark chocolate) and stay in touch with people via Facebook that we haven’t seen in twenty-five years. We create a false sense of familiarity, as if we really know what’s going on with the other person, only to be shocked when we see that person in the flesh to realize all is not well in the State of Denmark.
In truth, through our online self-branding management efforts, we develop a pseudo-reality for ourselves and, along with it, pseudo-selves.
Roaming about as the avatars of our own creation, we have reached a Brave New World of information exchange at the highest (and lowest) level. But much of what gets
belched broadcast out onto the Internet has the life of a match. It fizzles out of existence as quickly as it was written. All the while we self-soothe, thinking someone might be listening or care what we write. We yearn for connection and get it in some way ~ oftentimes through people we don’t know. We meet on a virtual plane for a passing moment at a cross-section in time that can be instanteneous or time-controlled, should we choose not to respond just yet.
I have ambivalent feelings about the very medium that has granted me much of the freedom to pursue my life’s work. The Internet is more powerful than most of us realize.
Despite its influence (or perhaps because of it) transparency and authenticity are great challenges in today’s 24/7 world. As a human race, we may be more connected than ever before, but our digital existence is merely a part of our greater selves.
Will our children realize there is a parallel universe beyond the screen? I am optimistic that they will.