Me, Being Human Online

Whether you’re a developer, purveyor or consumer of web technology, there is one thing worth keeping in mind: right now participation in the social web dictates a form of multiple personality disorder.  Seriously, at my LinkedIn profile I’m the president of a company and have thoroughly documented my moderately successful background.  I have recommendations from commercial partners who have used words like “technical” “practical” and “dedication” to describe their prior working relationships with me.  I guess that makes me bonafide, right!?!

Now Facebook is an entirely different persona.  There I’m the hunting, fishing, outdoorsy guy who totally fits the lifestyle synonymous with the flyover country of Minnesota.  Yes I shoot and gut deer, yes I have chopped down a tree, and yes I have sat all day over a 10” hole on a frozen lake pulling out perch and drinking PBR.  Am I really some extremophile between technologist and entrepreneur by day and Jeremiah Johnson wannabe by weekend?

The dichotomy of my professional and personal selves online was nothing short of incredible.  So much so, that for years I was worried that my clique on one side might somehow come in contact with the other.  Then what would happen?  Would I lose my position in the business world because of the one time I pissed out my camping fire?  Would I risk favor with my woodsy clan because I’d gone to a business meeting in a suit and tie the prior day and talked about my concerns over what the internal rate of return would be?

Last year I decided to confront my identity crisis.  My self-imposed intervention was kicked-off with a slow and strategic merging of both of my identities: 1) I began using the same headshot of myself no matter what web sites I’m on, 2)  I started telling my business stories to my rural cronies and my outdoor tales to my urban colleagues, 3) I vowed to be a singular character who carries both parts of my life with me wherever I go, 4) I asked business acquaintances to go fishing with me, and my fellow redneck cohort to connect with me on LinkedIn.

The result, to my surprise, is that I’ve become more real, more human.  My online interactions with people now occur in a natural and linear fashion.  My life stream has blurred when moving from the authentic to the digital world. I feel much more comfortable in my digital skin.

What is being human online like for you?

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