Transparency: the self, online

7 Feb

There’s always debate around one issue when it comes to virtual interaction: how much personal information should we share?  How much is wise, and how much do we have to disclose in order to participate in the activities we want?

I think that when we choose to place our thoughts and opinions in the public arena, digital or otherwise, we run a gambit between protecting our identities so we don’t suffer repercussions professionally (anyone else miss tenure?) and divulging enough of ourselves to connect with our audiences.  There’s a practical side to this, but also a philosophical one.  A lot of the time there’s discussion that pretends it’s the philosophical side, but is really practical; things like right to privacy, data mining, and protecting minors can seem philosophical but at the heart, they deal with real situations and real people.

The practical side has benefits on both sides of the question: managing multiple identities, versus never having to remember who you’re being in X capacity.  Obviously, if you know what you have to say is inflammatory, a pseudonym is the best route: Annoyed Librarian, over at Library Journal is a fantastic example.  The philosophical side we mostly don’t think about unless it’s in terms too abstract or directly related to you.

But for myself, I tend to lean more toward disclosure, with a healthy dose of caution, since even though we should be able to express our opinions as ourselves and not be judged by our employers, that is not always the case.  I think it’s pretty difficult to be 100% on either side until you reach a certain level of notoriety (good or bad – Neil Gaiman and Snooki would be examples of good and bad, respectively), when you can be your complete self and know that reprisal won’t be forthcoming.  Mostly, I think that the more you share of yourself, the more engaged your audience becomes, and that’s a consideration we should all make when we enter the digital world.

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