I had this realization the other day when having a conversation with my wife and a good friend. We were talking about how Facebook forces you to determine what version of yourself you want to present to everyone you “friend”. I’m sure you know what I mean. When most people talk to their boss they typically want to be perceived as professional and responsible. When you’re out with your friends at a concert, that’s a different thing. And when you’re at the park pushing your toddler in a swing, you exude the innocence of responsible fatherhood. Maybe the difference between the latter two is that other women are more likely to look at you and smile — but I digress. Many folks choose the most common denominator and go the respectful route.
Most of us today have been raised to act different ways around different people, while Facebook, Twitter and the whole of the interwebs has thrown that possibility out the window. You can’t really choose your audience so much anymore. If you’re online, you’re a search away from being totally revealed. And if you trashed an old blog you wrote in the hopes of dashing the efforts of some stalker, there’s always The Wayback Machine — everyone has instant access to your old kegstand photos.
This is a new reality for lots of people, but one that’s been around for ages. In many ways, the Internet has taken this global society we have and turned it into a village. That’s extremely helpful in many respects, because it provides forums for communication that foster creativity, education and collaboration in ways that were impossible to imagine just ten years ago. However there’s not much privacy if you start bringing your life online. You can’t really erase the memories and impressions that people have of you growing up. Everyone in your village knows the answer to the question, “what are you doing right now?” They know the music you like, the blogs you read, and so on. Yes, when you’re in a small town you can move away and start all over again by reinventing yourself, but you don’t have that option online.
So what do you do? Do you embrace it and share your life and not care what other people think? Do you make peace with who you are? Do you abandon the social web? Or do you ride this giant experiment and see where it goes?