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green and breathing

maura @ 11:40 pm

Lots of ink has been spilled about kids today and their use of social networks, but what about us grown-ups? Of course the way we oldsters kick it online is hardly as important for the future as it is with the kids. But in many ways our negotiation of these spaces is much more varied + complex. When I have the time I like to read about this stuff — sociologist Eszter Hargittai @ Northwestern (+ her lab) has done lots of work on this. But I’m more familiar with what’s been done re: kids-college students than adults.

Recently I realized that DUH, it’s all about social identity construction! Kids (teens thru college) have had limited time (and need) for multiple social identities. I mean, how many kids really have a secret life (other than the one that all kids have running inside their heads)? For most people college provides the first real opportunity to begin building a new identity.

But by the time we reach adulthood we’ve necessarily constructed many social identities. There’s the person that you were in high school, the person that you were in college, your career persona (which can splinter even further for those with multiple careers, the archaeologistwebproducerlibrarians among us, e.g.), and your parenting persona (if you have kids), just to name a few. Through it all there’s your native family persona as well, the you that your nuclear + extended family knows.

These multiple social identities are often kept separate, either purposefully or for time/space reasons, i.e. my mom doesn’t know my library colleagues because she lives in a different place than I do, and I haven’t been a librarian for long enough for her to have had the opportunity to meet them.

So, I’m having some small twitterbook issues lately. And what’s kind of funny is that the issues are reversed for each online entity. In facebook: it’s all about the personal confronting the professional, and for twitter: strike that, reverse it.

I’ve mentioned before that I joined facebook to see what libraries were doing there. But, you know, you’re there, you have friends, they have friends, etc. And I don’t do any of the games or apps, but I do like the status updates + seeing friends’ status updates.

Recently there has been a huge influx of fb action from folks I knew in high school, and I’ve found myself a bit uncomfortable in that space. It’s not like I have anything against my high school or the people I went to school with — really, they’re all lovely (and if any are reading this, hi! You’re lovely!). I guess it’s more that, well, high school is kind of a yucky time, emotionally. For me it was all the standard teen drama (nothing THAT dramatic — really I am totally boring), plus my parents’ marriage was starting to break up (also not too horrendous, but not balloons + cupcakes, either). It’s not really a mental space that I like to inhabit much, as lovely as the people are, hence the discomfort.

I’m sure I’ll get over it, because really facebook is a social space, and is really far less professional than other places online. Plus, as I mentioned before, I am boring — the only real risk is that I will post something silly. Which is more a guarantee than a risk!

(Also, I’m hardly anonymous on the internets anyway, thanks to my weird name.)

Twitter is the exact opposite. I joined because Jonathan made me (lots of software developers use it) but so far I have only been using it in essentially the same way as facebook status updates — mostly frivolous. I do follow some librarians + library things (as well as famous people [Kristin Hersh and Felicia Day] and the AMNH!), but they’re in the minority on my following list.

Except that I went to a conference a few weeks ago and followed the live twits (still have a hard time saying “tweets” — too precious) in progress. And ever since then I’ve been chewing over whether to follow those twitterers. Because that will make twitter a more professional space than I’ve been using it for, and can it be both? Yes, I could create another profile, but really, who has the time?

Today I finally stopped hemming and hawing and jumped into the twitter followers pool. Twitter really is a better space for professional-type stuff, anyway. And I keep hearing about people who get good answers to questions via the twitterverse — maybe I can get some answers to my questions, too. Like does anyone know if there’s a concise, college-level summary of “Suzanne Briet’s What Is Documentation?“?

5 comments on “green and breathing”

Anne (18 December 2008 at 1:47 pm)

My mom thinks I have a secret life!

maura (18 December 2008 at 9:22 pm)

It *is* kind of a secret life, these online spaces.

Now that I am out of the twitter closet I just started following about 15 additional library/tech folks. Bracing for the onslaught…I barely have time to keep w/twitterbook as it is.

Em (20 December 2008 at 2:46 pm)

My mom is actually on facebook, so my secret life just came to a screeching halt. (She hasn’t added my little brother as a friend, nor have I mentioned anything that is on there about him). We’re an easy family and it’s still complicated.

And I made the mistake of following Etsy on twitter so now I have a bunch of crafty people following me hoping I’ll follow them so I can buy their stuff. I don’t really want to block them all, but, like you, I was using twitter for pals and Kristin Hersh.

maura (20 December 2008 at 9:02 pm)

Wow, I can’t imagine my mom on facebook. She’s somewhat technophobic though so I don’t think it will ever happen.

I do feel more comfortable ignoring on twitter than on facebook, though — it’s so much less personal. With facebook lately I keep thinking, what if you had a party and all of those people came? How weird would THAT be?

Anne (21 December 2008 at 10:09 pm)

No, she thinks I have a secret life in general.

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