‘Social’ Media: Wishing You Were You

persona, social media. Twitter, personality, online identity, author platform, Porter Anderson, Jane Friedman, Writing on the Ether, Writer Unboxed, grid, Joe Cocker, Rachel Martin, Steve Inskeep, NPR, NPR Morning Edition, NPR Weekend Edition, Louvre, High Museum of Art, sonnet, Shakespeare
Image from the opening of the Louvre Atlanta series of exhibitions, High Museum of Art, Atlanta | Photo: Porter Anderson


O! that you were your self; but, love, you are
No longer yours, than you your self here live…

Sonnet 13


Now, take Joe Cocker.

Mr. “You Are So Beautiful” (really high note:) “to me.”

Ever heard him talk?

Here you go: Terrific interview on NPR – great job by Rachel Martin — from earlier this month on Weekend Edition Sunday. Cocker’s torching for his new CD, of course, Hard Knocks. And I want you to hear him talk.

Get a snootful of that dialect.

persona, social media. Twitter, personality, online identity, author platform, Porter Anderson, Jane Friedman, Writing on the Ether, Writer Unboxed, grid, Joe Cocker, Rachel Martin, Steve Inskeep, NPR, NPR Morning Edition, NPR Weekend Edition, Louvre, High Museum of Art, sonnet, Shakespeare
Joe Cocker's CD Hard Knocks (Savoy) was released in late January.

When he speaks with Martin, does he sound like the singer you know? Never mind the glorious growl, I’m not talking about the kick-ass male-Janis texture of his voice. I’m trying to get you to focus on his speaking-voice dialect.

What do you hear? Yorkshire. Sheffield, to be precise. He’s English. He lives in Colorado now, and still speaks like the Brit he is.

And when he sings? Sounds like one of my fellow bubbas from Charleston. And not from South of Broad Street, either. That singing voice sounds like one of our more lightly educated bubbas. Did I say that graciously enough? One of our less-well-heeled bubbas. One of our down-and-out bubbas. That’s how he rolls.

So we have this UK guy on our hands here. Famous for singing like a South Carolinian tomato packing foreman. Granted, his native speaking dialect isn’t Harrow or Eton. Highclere Castle is a far cry from Sheffield. But each time Cocker gets on-mic in a studio, he’s faking a heavy regional American dialect.

Lots of pop stars do this. Most of them, I’d say, whether American or British or otherwise, start shucking corn when they want a tiny dancer to hold them closer.

Good thing I’m not a sociologist. I’d be deep into a landmark study to see if we couldn’t prove that the average pop-saturated U.S. lonely heart “hears” his or her thoughts about love and romance in a pea-pickin’ dialect because so much of our music about “luuuuv, hawney” is sung that way.


The Porter persona


“Who ARE you, Porter Anderson?”

She hangs around the Exterior of the Box here, writer Dee DeTarsio does. Always supportive of everybody’s posts. Thoughtfully looks the other way in time of pratfalls. Just the sort you want to find outside the cardboard.

DeTarsio left that “who ARE you?” in a smiling comment under my bio.

I wrote something quick and funny back. Of course. Because that’s who I am. Or so Dee thinks. So you think, too, I’ll bet.

persona, social media. Twitter, personality, online identity, author platform, Porter Anderson, Jane Friedman, Writing on the Ether, Writer Unboxed, grid, Joe Cocker, Rachel Martin, Steve Inskeep, NPR, NPR Morning Edition, NPR Weekend Edition, Louvre, High Museum of Art, sonnet, Shakespeare
Originally, Viki Noe's Twitter handle was @friendgrief, the topic of her nonfiction work. The adoption of her name as her Twitter handle gives her a more personable -- and upbeat -- persona.

Good old Porter. Still with just enough boyhood Charleston left to get off that Deeply Southern Spanish-mossy Porgy-sans-Bess wink at day’s end on Folly Beach, right? Of course right.

And when I tweet, you can feel my hand clapping your sunburned shoulder. My Twitter stream is the conch shell at your ear. Hear the ocean? Got you by the scruff of your neck. Intimate and authoritative at once.

Or maybe I’m a Brit from Sheffield.

Or, no, yeah, maybe I’m going the opposite direction of Bubba Joe Cocker. I was born in the Seat of the Confederacy, abandoned by wolves at an early age and raised by my parents, trained as an actor, then as a broadcaster, to ease the Southern dialect out of me. I’m not Eton or Harrow, either. But I ended up at the University of Bath in Somerset and got badly good at mimicking my English mates.

Or not.

Let me tell you something I see going on a lot in our “social” media. You’ll recall from last time that I’m not happy with the term “social” for these media (still a plural word, damn it). I’m passing around the phrase “grid,” both as a noun and a verb, for the kind of networking we’re talking about in these posts here at Writer Unverified.

I see folks, especially of a certain age, quickly growing attached to their “friends” online. Even gridly people much like yourself, authors who are platforming themselves, a business function, seem to fall awfully hard for each other. Facebook hasn’t helped, of course, commandeering the term “friend.”

But even on Twitter. That’s my main cyber griddle. I get a lot of folks who seem to believe we’re bonding deeply over a shared line about Amazon. Suddenly it’s the pitter-patter of little retweets and putting FollowFridays through college.

Do you see this, too? Folks tending to read more into online acquaintance than it is? Could they be suckers for a good, effective professional persona?

Gridding on these media is a blessing for some who are introverted, of course. The Ether’s an emboldening buffer for many, nothing wrong with that.

And, me, I do have some real friends and key colleagues I’ve met through Twitter. Glad of it, too.

But every time I meet some of them, I’m reminded how skewed a view they have of me while sometimes seeming to think they know the Compleat Porter.

Does this happen to you?

We’re in a terra incognita with all this, you know. I can’t speak for Neptunians, but never before have Earthlings met each other and concocted such extensive relationships, blind, in real time (which is different from postal pen pals of yore).

Never has it been possible to be so close to so many about whom we know so little.

What dialect do you really speak? And wait, who was I again?

Last October, #JaneFriedman — a 147,000-Twitter-follower hashtag unto herself and my host for Writing on the Ether each Thursday at her site — wrote a cool post that raised this issue.  She wrote:

You have to ask yourself—even if you’re shy or think you’re boring—what part of yourself are you going to share and put on display (online)? It’s got to be something, so let’s make it interesting. Let’s really dive into the fiction of who you are OR aren’t. Make up something you can believe in, so others can believe in it, too. (That’s what we all want, most desperately. Meaning.)


I want to know what love is


Here at Writer Uncrated, as you shake off that packaging, we want to offer you actionable ideas if not outright solutions whenever we can.

In suggesting that you think about your persona online, let’s structure the quandary a little more tightly, then I’ll give you a couple of things to help gird you as you grid.

  1. Most of us understand nowadays that when we talk about “author platforming,” we mean communicating with our target audiences.
  2. Communicating with our target audiences means, in plain speech, connecting with readers, potential buyers of our deathless prose and/or poetry.
  3. Connecting with readers is enabled in historically unprecedented ways by our “social” media, or, in Andersonian terms, the “grid” of online communications networks.
  4. But to go forth and multiply on the grid of these networking media, we must present ourselves as some version of ourselves – a persona – that can carry the weight of friendly, collegial interaction in a believable, “meaningful” formulation, as Friedman says, and yet not make us feel uncomfortable about exposing more of our actual lives and personalities than we want.
  5. Thus, we may find that we’re all from Sheffield singing our hearts out with Cocker as artful crackers.

The Pew Internet research people have an interesting contribution to make to the topic in a report from Mary Madden just out: Privacy management on social media sites.

  • persona, social media. Twitter, personality, online identity, author platform, Porter Anderson, Jane Friedman, Writing on the Ether, Writer Unboxed, grid, Joe Cocker, Rachel Martin, Steve Inskeep, NPR, NPR Morning Edition, NPR Weekend Edition, Louvre, High Museum of Art, sonnet, ShakespeareTwo-thirds of surveyed adult respondents indicate that they have profiles on “social” networking sites – but 58 percent of them say they have their profiles set to privacy controls that allow only friends to see them.
  • Women who maintain “social” media profiles are significantly more likely than men to keep their profiles private (67 percent of women vs. 48 percent of men opt for friend-only settings).
  • Age has almost no effect on the choice of private vs. public settings,  a bit of a surprise since we tend to think that younger people are prone to be less concerned about online privacy.
  • But younger people tend to be managing their privacy options more aggressively these days. They’re leading the way in a growing trend toward deleting people from networks (“friend” lists), deleting comments made by others on their profiles, removing their names from photos that tag them, and removing comments, photos, videos they say they later regret sharing.

persona, social media. Twitter, personality, online identity, author platform, Porter Anderson, Jane Friedman, Writing on the Ether, Writer Unboxed, grid, Joe Cocker, Rachel Martin, Steve Inskeep, NPR, NPR Morning Edition, NPR Weekend Edition, Louvre, High Museum of Art, sonnet, ShakespeareAll of this adds up to an interesting background of caution in, to paraphrase Erving Goffman, the presentation of persona in everyday life.

And before I leave you to craft, uncraft, recraft, or retro-craft your own persona, I’d also like to point you toward some intriguing research coming from Barry Wellman and his group at the University of Toronto.

I’m taking you back to NPR (and sending them an invoice for PR services rendered). On a Morning Edition broadcast of a few days ago, Why Twitter Ties Resemble Airline Hub Maps. Correspondent Shankar Vedantam tells anchor Steve Inskeep in this 4.5-minute segment about how Wellman’s research suggests that Twitter, in particular, may not be the great leveler we’ve thought it was. It may not be true that anybody anywhere can be anyone, after all — nice persona, buddy — because, to quote the great Peter Steiner cartoon, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

Prof. Wellman tells Vedantam:

We found out that a lot of Twitter ties are local. People have local interests. You know, in Toronto we’re worrying about subways, we’re worrying about politics…we’re worrying about Justin Bieber, who’s a local boy.

What’s more, Vedantam says, analysis of half-a-million tweets suggests that standard travel routes, say New York to London, are predictive of Twitter relationships. Vedantam says:

The real world powerfully predicts what kind of connections we have in the virtual world. So if you are living in New York, you’re much more likely to have followers in London than you are likely to have followers in a small town in the United States.

persona, social media. Twitter, personality, online identity, author platform, Porter Anderson, Jane Friedman, Writing on the Ether, Writer Unboxed, grid, Joe Cocker, Rachel Martin, Steve Inskeep, NPR, NPR Morning Edition, NPR Weekend Edition, Louvre, High Museum of Art, sonnet, Shakespeare
Louvre Atlanta opening, High Museum of Art. Photo: Porter Anderson


Now you


I’d like you to spring into action in the comments below and tell me how closely you feel your grid persona matches your actual personality. Be honest, with yourself, if not with me.

At first blush, we’re all going to say, “Hey, I’m just being myself” and “what you see is what you get” and “I am what I am” and “I’ve got nothing to hide, I’m an open ebook” and other perfectly meaningless stock phrases.

How near truth is that? How like your real-life self are you online? Are you comfortable with your grid persona?

According to Wellman’s research, if you live in Los Angeles, your easiest audience for those small-town lawn-cactus mysteries might not be in Sheffield. If you live among those cacti, the bubbas of Charleston may not appreciate your memoir. What does that do to your online strategy?

And when DeTarsio wants to know who YOU are, you may have to tell her you’re…me.

What a persona.

Good luck with that.


About Porter Anderson

@Porter_Anderson, BA, MA, MFA, is a journalist, speaker, and consultant specializing in publishing. Anderson is The Bookseller's Associate Editor for The FutureBook in London, a sister site focused on developments in digital publishing. He is also a featured writer with Thought Catalog in New York, writing on publishing and on #MusicForWriters in association with Q2 Music. In 2015, Anderson has programmed the IDPF Digital Book Conference that opened BookExpo America (BEA) and is programming the First Word event at the Novelists Inc. (NINC) conference later in the year. And he is working with the Frankfurt Book Fair on special programming for its new Business Club suite of events and facilities, now in its second year, 13-16 October, in the 2015 Buchmesse. More on his consultancy, which includes Library Journal's and BiblioBoard's SELF-e among its clients in 2015: PorterAndersonMedia.com | Google+


  1. says

    “I’d like you to spring into action in the comments below and tell me how closely you feel your grid persona matches your actual personality. Be honest, with yourself, if not with me.”

    A great question, Porter. I think one thing that resonates across social media is when it’s clear someone is authentic. I’m reminded of what Phillip Lopate writes in the introduction of The Art of the Personal Essay. He says the key to that genre–which really differs little from blogging or tweeting–is that you share fully a part of yourself. That engages the reader, connects them to you, makes them trust you. But you have still only shared a part. Readers don’t see what you’ve held back, because–obviously–it’s not visible to them. But they don’t feel you’ve held back, because of what you’ve shared. For me, what I put out there online is honest and raw, but is a part I calculate I am willing to expose.

    FYI, I know we’ll meet in person soon, and I am under no illusion that I already know the Compleat Porter, or will after our meeting either!

      • Porter Anderson says

        Hey, Geraldine, I’m thinking you might enjoy the segment in the new edition of “On the Media,” on “The Lifespan of a Fact” — a very telling study of what makes the art of essay what it is, relevant, I think, to Lopate’s work and what Patrick points out is, in Lopate, that intent of sharing part of yourself fully. http://ow.ly/9i6tN Thanks so much for reading the post today and commenting!

    • says

      This is a major key, Patrick, you’ve put your finger right on it. It’s very much like good editing — what’s taken out of your work by a great editor isn’t noticed by your readers. And what parts of your life and personality don’t figure into your persona are never missed.

      I think I’m hesitant about the point you make on authenticity. Mind you, you make this point as well or better than anybody I know. And in your own work — playing back your experiences from your MFA program for example — I see what you’re saying, what you mean, and how it works.

      In others (OK, here’s the ancient actor talking), I’m not always sure that the interpretive art — that is, the ability to put across what’s authentic AS authentic — is there with adequate power to make it resonate with readers. I’m saying that some folks simply don’t have the expressive skills to communicate “this is me, this is a well-chosen and authentic part of who I am.”

      The result in such a case of persona, in my experience, can be a lot of integrity at work … in a disbelieving world. And this is why I think consciously choosing what one is online, complete with an eye as to what will READ as authentic, not just what IS authentic, can be a big part of presenting oneself on the Grid. (I like how Keith Cronin uses the capitalization!)

      Thanks for reading and for commenting — looking forward to meeting at AWP, Incompleat Porter or no. :-)

  2. says

    I have to confess that my on-line persona is perhaps a wee bit quieter and more restrained than my off-line persona. That, perhaps some will say, is not such a bad thing!!! :)

    Jokes aside – although it’s impossible to say, for we all have “blind spots” about ourselves – I would guesstimate that my on-line persona is probably 90% of my real self. Again, that’s not such a bad thing, because, really the remaining 10% of me that stays off-line is frankly boring! :)

    Judy, South Africa

    • Porter Anderson says

      Actually, this is a very interesting self-appraisal of your persona online, Judy, in that so many people, I think, will tell you the opposite: They’ll say they’re a bit higher-spirited online and prone to be comparatively quiet in real life.

      An interesting insight, and congrats on getting anything approaching 90 percent of yourself into the picture on the Ether, that’s not easy to do, either! :)

      Thanks for reading and dropping a comment, great to have you, bests to your summery counterpart to our winter. :)

  3. says

    What an interesting post. Particularly liked ‘Never has it been possible to be so close to so many about whom we know so little.’

    Moves me not to ask, ‘Who are you?’ but ‘What are you on?’

    • Porter Anderson says

      Alex, welcome, and thanks so much for taking time to drop a note.

      I like you immensely for having spotted my ersatz Churchill-ian moment there, quite astute of you. :)

      And what AM I on? LOL I could tell you it’s the Campari talking, but the real shame is that this is a self-sustaining mania, no one is safe. :)

      Take care, and thanks again for reading and dropping a note! Do check the weekly Writing on the Ether if you haven’t seen it yet. It’s a digest, don’t try to read it all, just drop into what interests you. The last person who tried to read it all hasn’t been heard from since. :)


  4. Ann Reid says

    An extraordinary post. Somehow, however, the issue of who you are on social media doesn’t ever seem to come to grips with people, like many writers, who are not overwhelmingly social to start with. How do people grapple with a media that is a bit of an intrusion. In real life what do people do who are not usually gushing over to share their inner-most thoughts or blab what they had for dinner, that their kid has nits, or their take on the latest, fleeting, insubstantial bit of Media hoopla.

    In real life, I don’t want to have these sorts of conversations. On social media, I tend to wait until I have something to say– which might be a while between posts.

    Think of the sound of one hand clapping– the sound of one voice held in reserve until it actually has something meaningful to contribute– in any dialect. Maybe that would be worth listening to.

    • Porter Anderson says

      Ann, if we had more like you, the “social” media — AKA the Grid in my nomenclature — would be (a) mercifully quieter and (b) more intelligent. Alas, one thing the Internet has tended to trigger (among several other unsavory features) is a drive to say everything that’s on one’s mind online. People seem to have thrown off not only the gatekeepers of publishing but also of self-respect, and now hustle to the keyboard or touch screen to put their every non-sequitur online. These are the folks who can tweet quite astutely about a topic from business by day, but then don’t stop … their subway ride home, the stop at the grocery, the condition of traffic lights in their neighborhood, their children’s (embarrassing) shortcomings, their dinner, its ingredients, the price of those ingredients, a comparison of those prices with other stores’ prices, interrupted only by commentary about the son or daughter’s autism or dyslexia…it’s maddening.

      Thank you for waiting until you have something to say. You’re exercising a decency that most people online seem to long ago have lost, if they ever had it. The Internet has done so many strange things. Chief among them, for me, are (a) making everybody think that he or she is a writer — as I always say, thank God they don’t all think they’re airline pilots instead — and (b) making everybody think their supper menu holds the slightest interest whatsoever for anyone else.

      You’re on the right, resistant track. :)

  5. says

    Thought-provoking, candid stuff. I doubt most of us want to admit that we adopt online personas, and – if we’re conscious of having done so – are probably not inclined to share just how we went about constructing them.

    But to me, an effective persona is directly analogous to effective writing. We need to decide – as Bob Seger so aptly put it – what to leave in, what to leave out. That’s what separates real writing from spewing: the act of editing and controlling our words. I think it’s the same for personas. It’s not that we’re necessarily trying to be fake or deceptive, but we do make choices about what to share and what not to. Can that veer into affectation or phoniness? Certainly. But I think being selective about how we represent ourselves is simply smart communicating.

    The cool thing about living in this social-griddy-whatever-you-want-to-call-it era is that it offers a real-time opportunity to see how your writing – and your persona – is going over with other people. Much like a comedian needs to do his act countless times in front of an audience to fine-tune it and see what works and what doesn’t, the Grid gives us writers a constant and immediate opportunity to see what our audiences connect with. That’s something I definitely pay attention to, both to improve and focus my writing, and because frankly it’s just fascinating to observe.

    Nice post, Bubba!

    • Porter Anderson says

      Bubba Keith!

      You’re landing with both feet on what I think is one of THE most interesting parts of this whole business — that desire to act as if one DIDN’T create (consciously or not) one’s online persona.

      We’re not even our “real” selves on the danged telephone. (That pleasant “hello?” Give me a break. Face to face, nobody’s that warmly interrupted.)

      The whole subject is like bed-head hairstyles. As IF anyone believes somebody rolled out of bed with such perfectly tousled locks all moussed into middle-manager-chic. We share many strange, unspoken lies in our culture, particularly when it comes to, Goffman again, “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.”

      Exactly right. This persona business is beautifully analogous to good editing. We edit ourselves for public consumption.

      I love your point about feedback. The fact that we can focus-group our every move and utterance (and dinner menu item, God help us) is amazing. In find in writing posts for Writer Unashamed and other sites that I can be completely wrong about what line or concept or phrase the readers will pick up on.

      For example, I’m interested to notice that so far the comments here haven’t referred much to my own observations about people who take online relationships to be deeper and more personal than they are. The “friends” who fall for “friends,” especially among older people who are unused to a format of “friendship” that’s actually the performance of personae. Crickets on that one. Isn’t that interesting?

      Thanks for commenting, great to have your smart input, looking forward to your next post here at Bubba Unrestrained.

  6. says

    Very interesting post. My gut reaction, as expected, was “of course I am totally my authentic self online.” On further thought, I’d have to admit this isn’t entirely true. I try to keep my greater faults to myself. I sit on my hands rather than go on rants about things that annoy me. I try to watch my language. I avoid political commentary and some of my stronger opinions. Even now while writing this comment I caught myself deleting something that maybe I didn’t want to say. In real life – I don’t do any of this. I guess what you get online is the edited version, my idealized self. Still me, just better.

    • Porter Anderson says

      Hey, Kerry, so glad to see you here, thanks for commenting.

      Yeah, especially on political things, I hear you. I’ve learned to create a tweet or a post and save the thing before pushing “send” because I know it’s just not the stuff of “a proper persona.”

      I don’t think this is wrong, by the way. I think that in any society, online or on the hoof, it’s completely good to think before one speaks, keep certain known red flags out of sight, and generally ply your business in the sunshine.

      If anything, it’s astonishing how many people don’t think before they hurl themselves into empty swimming pools of completely certain hostility. (I’m thinking of your reference to political issues — there is no position one could take and not be dinged within seconds by someone who wants to explain to you what a jackass you are (and you are anything but).

      Thanks for being so smart about it AND for commenting. :)

  7. says

    Far be it for from the guy who admitted to using a nom de plume in this space last month to argue with your grid persona thesis. Of course I only reveal part of myself in my online circles, and even different parts and depths to the various circles. But this is true of my ‘real world’ self as well. Very few of my carpentry customers imagine I spend most of my days writing and haunting my favorite catacombs of the grid. And I’m guessing few of my online writing chums picture me stripping and refinishing wooden decks to pay the bills. Nor do I imagine does either group care to. My deck customers want the work done by a guy who knows the best brand of penetrating sealer, and my online folks want a guy who’s focused on all things writerly.

    And as far as online community, I still say we gravitate to the tribes that embrace some gleaned ‘truth’ about us. For example, even though I write historical fantasy, and should perhaps be hanging out on Tor or The TorchOnline, I ended up feeling a better fit here among the Uncrated, who’ve accepted me (more or less) in spite of my penchant for swords with names and archaic prose.

    Just a few thoughts. Glad to be getting to know you beyond your badly good mimicked accent. Thanks for the shoulder claps.

    • says

      Well, Vaughn (or Tim or Charlie or whoever you really are), I’m glad you’ve brought up this deck staining business, there are several pressing questions about sealants I need to put to you.

      Oooh, there’s that “tribe’ word. Seth speaks. And speaks. And speaks. And cancels his Domino (not pizza) thing on Amazon so abruptly, but we don’t mention that — Godindammerung so soon, surely not — we just keep listening as Seth speaks. And speaks. And speaks. And speaks.

      There’s persona for you, tribe boy.

      You shave your head.

      And carry a big sword with a name.

      Do you know my reference to “Seth Speaks?” http://ow.ly/9itkd This psychic who persona-ed herself as Jane Roberts got off a lot of books, claiming she was channeling said speaker from a distant reality, perhaps where the deer and the Dominos play. Where never is heard a non-motivational word. And the skies are full of hot air all day. And speaks. And speaks. And speaks.

      So glad you feel you fit into Porter’s Personae on Parade here, seems we’ve turned out at least 76 trombones with our Think System, Prof. Hill.

      And so good to know more about carpentry in the catacombs.

      Just remember, not a word I’ve revealed about myself here is true.

      Just persona.

      Or not.

      Rod Serling says hi.

      Via Seth.

      Who speaks.

      And speaks.

      And speaks.


    • says

      Now, you take Gerry Anderson. PLEASE.

      No, I’m delighted to say I’m not Mr. Fanderson, though I wouldn’t say no to his MBE, of course. Ever since my Somerset days, I’ve had my eye on the Order of the Bath, actually.

      I’m appalled to admit that as a child I watched both Fireball XL5 and Supercar, two of those nightmarish “supermarionette” bobble-and-drift affairs, wooden heads in space, awful. I still run from bunraku as a result, the scars of youth.

      Yes, I love the idea of a better edited self, several folks are reflecting that concept of the online persona, which is rather good, I think. Nobody better suited than the Rozweiler for that job. :)

  8. says

    I agree with what Patrick said. We CAN be authentic online, but perhaps only about whatever slice it is we are sharing or want to promote at that time. It doesn’t mean it’s not true. It’s just not WHOLE. I would never claim to “know” a person well from social media. However, I do think it’s possible to connect with someone on a specific level. Claiming a friendship with someone you’ve never met, however, seems a step too far. That’s why we have words like “colleague,” or “acquaintance,” or “someone I admire.”

    • says

      With all due respect, I disagree, Julie. Websters defines ‘friend’ as 1) a person one knows well and is fond of, or 2) an ally, supporter, or sympathizer. Call me a hopeless romantic or delusional, but I don’t feel I’ve needed a physical encounter to have achieved the second definition, if not the first as well, in many of my online relationships. Maybe it’s just me.

      • Porter Anderson says

        Vaughn, my man, you’re in good hands, Julie is going to take care of you. I’ve charged her with sobering you up (stop sniffing that deck stain) and working on those “friends” of yours. :-)

        Seriously (really), I actually think a FORM of friendship probably is being evolved over time as the social-except-in-Porter’s-house media mature. Some of my fondest real-world relationships have been with people I saw only in certain settings (say, a bank teller, a store cashier, a museum director) and over time our interactions really did seem to add up to something beyond mere “colleague” stuff. And yet the obligations of what we normally think of as friendship — the be-there-when-you-need-me material of life — never attached to these exchanges. I’d look forward to seeing this person, even take them a little something from time to time, carry on about various actual subjects from our respective lives, but never have quite the duty to feel responsible to them that one does in a full-fledged relationship.

        And I wonder if that’s not what we’re starting to see form in various Grid settings. Dependable but not responsible. Enjoyable but not possessive. Comfortably knowledgeable (about each other) but not intrusive. Baggage-free.

        I enjoy that stuff. I’m not yet ready to quite designate it friendship because, as I was writing to Julie, I think this is more a dance of personae (even in the real-life cases I’m thinking about — I feel all too sure that I get more than my share of the benefit of the doubt from my real-life “mates-of-convenience,” maybe we could call them).

        Such an interesting issue. I wouldn’t give up your idea of your Gridly friends as such, if that’s how they feel to you. In time, I think our fine sociological brothers and sisters are going to catch up to us with some useful definitions of what’s going on.

    • Porter Anderson says

      Julie, thanks for bringing up the issue of friendship-among-the-personae, I find this such an interesting aspect of all this, and few feel very comfortable talking about it.

      Quite right, the selection of what parts of one’s authenticity one will or won’t put out there, per Patrick, yes.

      But per relationships, I think then we have to understand that in a sense we’re watching something like surrogates in a bad sci-fi film. Our pod people. Relating to each other.

      Your authentic slice of self meets my authentic slice of self. Maybe they have a high old time online. Does that constitute friendship?

      I’m with you, probably not. And I think where I become concerned is in various messages I see moving around at times that make me worry that others are, perhaps — I mean, what do I know? — mistaking a dance or two of the pod people to be more than it is.

      Rich and even layered, complex collegiality (good terms, I like your distinction) really is possible among the personae. More genuinely engaged relationship? Very hard to say.

      I may be able to sit comfortably with Mr. Roycroft Who Is Not Mr. Roycroft in the comment below in saying that a personal visit isn’t mandatory (“no representative will call” is always a relief to me). I do, actually, enjoy some very good relationships with colleagues online, my persona to their personae, but I normally do use that term, colleague, rather than friend, as you suggest (you’re spot on) because I tend to reserve that word “friend” (unlike the ZukerBorg) for stronger stuff than baby pictures and cat video links, or whatever meaningful interaction one is thought to be carrying forward on Facebook.

      I do, though, really appreciate Patrick’s point that what parts of ourselves we DO select for our personae on the Grid are best rooted in something actual and energized by that honesty. It’s the difference in a tweet from somebody you keep up with and from some spam-monger whose message is more forward than any real colleague’s comment would ever be. (Amazing how inept are the spammers, isn’t it, Viagra being a relatively easy word to spell correctly)

      Good stuff, thanks for reading and commenting. I’m going to assign Mr. Roycroft to you, it’s just the deck-stain fumes getting to him, I’m sure.

      After detox, let us know how he’s doing.

  9. says

    You’re right about the comparison with honing for what works and what doesn’t. I started writing memoir and was funny so I went out performing comedy in the 90’s for 2 yrs. & was taught to put a tape recorder on stage to hear where the audience laughed. Ray Romano never stopped doing that up to the last minute. It takes on average 5 yrs. to find ur comic persona. My reason for getting on stage was to gain a better understanding of audience. It takes time and practice and feedback and mentors and models to balance self and audience. Just be yourself u hear judges tell singers but why is that so elusive to some and easy for others called “naturals.” Practice and putting ur vulnerability out there. Shamelessly. Less is more is my fave mantra. Ciao for now.

    • says

      Geraldine, I love the analogy to using a recorder in standup to track where the laughs work, and where the jokes fall flat.

      I feel rather like I’m in a test kitchen at times, really, unsure of how a comment or a tweet is going to be received and responded to.

      That persona-tinkering job can be fun, as long as you don’t equate bad results (a joke falling flat) to something about your actual self-worth. Same as standup comedians (such brave people) have to learn. You separate yourself from craft enough to let the highs and lows live in their own space, not in yours.

      GOOD thoughts here, thanks!

  10. says

    This is basically why i created Turndog Millionaire, because i feel he can do and say and be things Matt cannot. It’s not to say i’m not happy with who i am, but i also like the freedom of being someone slightly different online.

    Will people be surprised when they meet in person? maybe a little, but not too much i don’t think. I’m still me, but just as you act in real life, you are slightly different depending on the situation.

    Are you the same at work as you are around friends? What about your family to say, the in-laws?

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

    • says

      It’s fun to mix’n’match. I’ve pulled out my Bronx accent at stuffy business meetings w success. It was either that or die of boredom. The main thing is to bring down the wall so you can connect.

    • Porter Anderson says

      Yeah, a persona-of-convenience, Matt, i’m sure this is the impetus behind a lot of folks’ personae.

      I confess that on the Grid in general (what everybody so loves to call “social” media), I find names that aren’t those of the people behind them to be a problem. Not so much as your Turndog Millionaire (which I can consider a first and last name and be fine with) but project names.

      Since the concept is that of a person-a — not a project-a — it’s always a mistake, in my opinion, to put yourself on Twitter or whatever Gridly medium you get up to AS your project. Since most creative people go through more than one project, it’s good, too, to use your name (or an alter ego like your Mr. Millionaire) because then you don’t have to keep reintroducing yourself to people as your latest gig (“same great guy, whole new project”…immediately tedious).

      I’m curious that your Twitter name. You’re @Turndog_Million there. What happened to your “aire?”

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  11. says

    Love the One You’re With

    To the guy who could teach Dean Koontz a word or two…

    I like to say I’m a yoga teacher, fluent in Italian (language and cooking) and volunteer for the Peace Corps…but none of that would be true.

    Catfish, anyone?

    • Porter Anderson says

      And here’s the aforementioned Ms. DeTarsio and yes, Dean Koontz has confided in me about his interest in using you as his persona. I told him it beats the catfish shtick and to go for it. You — or Dean — have Roz’s vote already. :)

  12. says

    I think our daily lives box us in to a degree. Our experiences, the choices we have made, our jobs and our relationships create a construct of ourselves it can be hard to escape.

    Rather than our online presence being a false persona, I like to think it allows us to explore or indulge aspects of ourselves we have lost or buried. Or perhaps to be the person we have always wanted to be. Maybe sometimes our online persona is a truer picture of who we really are inside.

    Your post offers much food for thought. Thank you.

    • Porter Anderson says

      Thanks for your input, Sheri, I think I do tend to see a lot of folks “living” online in ways they may not in real life. An air of bravura or cosmpolitan swagger or compassion or … as Steiner tells us, “nobody knows you’re a dog” online.

      There may be a finer line, however, between “false” and “exploratory.” :-) If I announce myself to be a seasoned Boeing 757 pilot, for example, I’m not sure I can credit myself with “exploring” that smartly-uniformed persona as much as simply being “false” and wanting people to think I can fly big jets.

      I did land a Boeing 767 for Delta once, in one of its $15 million simulators in Atlanta … I really did … and nobody’s going to believe that for a minute, although I really did it.

      It’s a dance of more than seven veils for all of us, isn’t it? Sometimes I wonder who we’re putting it over on — us or them. :)

  13. says

    In medicine, one can walk from an exam room holding a robust, bouncing infant in the arms of a doting parent. Thirty seconds later, one might face a terminal patient surrounded by a bitter and divided family.

    The best of my teachers, when faced with those scenarios, could adopt different tones, vocabularies, body posture — really, they changed most aspects of outer expression. But the core didn’t change. Their knowledge didn’t change. It was simply filtered through the lens of what would best serve their patients, including what they revealed through self-disclosure.

    I think I prefer the idea of a filter to that of persona, and that we draw upon fine-grain filters in some scenarios, looser mesh in others.

    • Porter Anderson says

      I think I can see the persona AS filter, Jan, without any problem.

      Since most of us in these comments seem to feel that the persona is operating as a selector, of sorts, of various parts of ourselves — and a delimiter of elements we want to suppress in various settings on the Grid — this makes good sense.

      Where I become impatient at times is in finding others online who assume they know much more about me than they do. They think they know my musical tastes, my artistic interests, daily schedules, patterns of opinion. Invariably they’re wrong because that filter, my persona, if you prefer, is making sure they see only what I want them to see.

      Why some people think they see enough of me or anyone to draw conclusions about who we are in real life?–I can’t imagine. What a crapshoot.

      I find the rudeness of these assumptions to be among the most off-putting parts of the online life. Guesswork appears to be an Angry Birds substitute for a lot of folks online who need to spend more time cutting their grass and washing their cars and getting other useful things done, not rying to imagine what’s behind one persona or another.

      Hm. Have I just defined online nosiness?

      Thanks for your input, looking forward to your next spin at WU –

  14. says

    Building on Jan’s idea, you might see different sides of an individual by following them on different social media/grid sites, because people may use slightly different (or wildly different) social-and-business filters. You’ll rarely see me fling out a sarcastic quip on Twitter (where I talk about the writing world 95% of the time) or here at WU (where I try to keep things positive), but you’ll see it occasionally on Facebook (where my family hangs as well, and brings out the *real* in me).

    Interesting post, Porter. Lots to ponder. Thank you!

    • Porter Anderson says

      Teri, I can easily see different personae for one user as you move from site to site, good point.

      How “Three Faces of Eve.” (How many personalities did Sybil have, sixteen? lol)

      Seriously, I wonder if at times someone doesn’t forget him- or herself and suddenly publish an outburst on Facebook in the persona they use on Twitter, or vice-versa? We might, for example, see you display a “family moment” on Twitter if you went there from FB and forgot to change gears. :)

      We’ll watch for that, actually, could be entertaining. :)

      Thanks for the kind words and input, nice to see so many people thinking about all this –

  15. says

    I grew up with an Italian grandmother who always cautioned us “What will the neighbors think.” I think she instilled in me early on to be very aware of how I put myself out into the social world (and I am speaking of the “real” world, not the internet one.)

    Plus, being a social worker, I have to constantly be on guard to be professional, and maintain boundaries with those around me, sometimes just for self-preservation. (I’ve had clients track down my parents in order to give me gifts that I told them I can’t accept.)

    Making the jump to platform building, it has been a matter of finding the balance of how much of the “real” me to share with others, and it isn’t the dirty, gritty part of me that gets revealed.

    Even writing this comment, I keep in mind how it will be perceived by others. This is my professional realm (since I’m trying to create a writing career), and I put on my professional face. I don’t think it’s that much different than when I go to work in the morning. It’s still me, but the thought out persona, not the one that just happens!

    • Porter Anderson says

      The small town my grandparents were in, Lara, had a version of your grandmother’s line that went “What would Fred Parker think?” Fred was the undertaker at the town’s funeral home. And the way kids were taught to keep themselves in clean underwear was to remind them that if something terrible happened, Fred Parker was going to be the first to know how they’d been dressed to meet their maker. :)

      I think we’re starting to see a pretty stark generational divide, actually, in terms of what you’re talking about. Younger people whose lives have been spent online from very early ages are — on the whole and with plenty of exceptions, I think — comfortable revealing a lot more of themselves online than some others are.

      One of the hardest parts of analyzing this, of course is the fact that you don’t know for sure if this is youthful “Internet-native” behavior — or just the traditional naivete about how badly things can go if the wrong info gets out that has existed as part of jejune inexperience throughout history.

      Only when we see some more years on these folks, I think, will we know if the sort of care in that “presentation of self in everyday life” becomes natural to them — or whether they’ll always be less inhibited in “living online.” Should be interesting to watch the arc of persona building going forward.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  16. says

    Well, let’s see…

    I don’t use four-letter words online.

    You can’t see that the clothes in my closet are mostly black. (Although since I live in New York you might surmise that anyway.)

    You don’t know how I take my coffee. (Strong and frequently.)

    I haven’t posted my playlists so you don’t know that I’m nuts for Thievery Corporation.

    What is my favorite historical period? Ah, you’re wondering aren’t you?

    Favorite sport? FB won’t tell you, perhaps because there isn’t an icon for yacht racing.

    Likewise, you won’t know my favorite TV shows…heck, you wouldn’t even know that I don’t own a TV.

    And that’s to say nothing of my complex views on Keynsian economics. It’s not something I share.

    So I guess, my online “friends”, you don’t really know me do you?

    Well, except in one way that counts: What I believe about fiction and its crafting.

    • says

      Another fellow regular WU contributor, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Donald Maass in the house.

      And how like our chef-de-Breakout ( http://ow.ly/9irXZ ) to show-not-tell us exactly what we know-but-forget about our personae.

      (My pluralization is drawn from the Latin, I’m still a fancy man, aren’t I?)

      Well done, sir, and how apt. So good to see your own fabled persona (appear to) unburden itself of a few secrets. How easily the reading mind jumps right up: “Donnie, we hardly knew ye!”

      Historical period … I’m thinking Bolshevik Revolution but more on the Anastasia end than The Mess We Made Afterward, right? … OK, not right. I’ve laid another Fabergé egg. I’ll keep working, I’m sure I can guess it before the next wave of Visigoths hits the Apple Store on Broadway.

      Yacht racing. Brilliant. Even after prying into our lives for all these years, Little Marky Zuckerberg is still a few sports icons short of a load, you see? Does my t-shirt collection good. (All black, yes.)

      Seriously, if only briefly so, I do think you’re pointing up something pretty interesting here, Don. There are two great camps tented in the far-flung fields of persona. One camp understands that how they take their coffee has no bearing whatever on the interests they want to promote online. The other camp seems to find nothing more interesting than referring to itself “strongly and frequently.”

      How shall we parse this?

      (a) Could it be that having a sense of mission, purpose, whatever the damned “life coaches” are calling it this week, can raise one’s persona above the nattering nonsense of personal preferences?

      Hence, your interest in what counts, your beliefs in fiction and its crafting, gets right past your closet’s contents and reaches us via your persona, reliably, regularly, smartly?

      (b) Or could it be that some people actually think that focusing on “themselves in the art,” Mr. Stanislavsky, actually can explicate “the art in ourselves” — if only they gaze obsessively enough at their own reflections in public? Does anyone ever hold so noble a rationale for narcissism?

      Personally, I mistrust (b). I never believe that the self-fascinated personae among us (so many!) have good intentions; the people whose blog posts are always about themselves with that dreadful “my breakfast today reminded me that life is like a grapefruit” approach.

      So if you stay transfixed by the drive to craft fiction (preferably crafting good fiction well), I’ll forgive you what might have been a far showier display of those closet contents. :-)

      Thanks for reading and commenting and joining Porter’s Personae on Parade here, looking forward to your next WU post. :)

      • says


        I believe the explosion of online self-exposure has two aspects, light and dark:

        Light: The selfless desire to connect and share what is supportive, useful and community building.

        Dark: The selfish and needy desire to be known, admired, validated and praised.

        The light aspect is what’s good about Writer Unboxed. The dark aspect gives us blog posts about grapefruit.

        And, no, my favorite historical period is not the Russian Revolution. You’re way off. (Though I do love Dr. Zhivago.) But would you like to know what I had for breakfast?

        • says

          You know, I’ve just had the most interesting phrase from Jeff Gomez over at Penguin ( @ThatJeffGomez ), Don –

          He found the post here and read it, and tweeted: @Porter_Anderson on the identity economy ow.ly/9jvjP

          “Identity economy.” Intriguing.

          If you put the case that we “trade” in our online personae (and offline, for that matter) — whether in cases of actual commerce, or simply in relationships — the “economy” terminology becomes workable.

          And, of course, this is an issue of identity, even in the “light and dark” dichotomy you’re perceiving (rightly).

          It’s almost as if the virtual world is causing each of us to find something of ourselves in a much more subtle, serious “Second Life” — and we’re not gaming this time, it’s for real.

          Can “Twitter Handle: Special Victims Unit” be far behind?

          • says

            “Identity economy”? You mean I can sell my identity instead of having it stolen? What could I get for it?

            But wait, is identity sale is going to be anything like the Kindle bookstore? If so, I don’t want in. Prices too low. Quality uneven.

            Or would it be like a pawnshop, where you could get money for lattes but buy it back when you’re more awake?

            Identity auctions for charity…now there’s an idea. Your identity could both do good and be a tax deduction.

            Mass produced identities? Hand-crafted identities? Identity coaches? Identity workshops? Identity blogs?

            Er, maybe we’re on one of those already. Maybe I’ll just stick with me, too. I put something into this me, want to see it pay off someday.

            • says

              Mass-produced identities?

              No, Maass-produced identities.

              Didn’t I just meet one of your fine clients? :-)

              Whatever you’re doing, the investment in that you is working out pretty well. Watch for my new Porter Prime edition. Got the name from one of Jeff Bezos’…personae.

  17. says

    In a world where people can google you up and make all sorts of judgments about you based on a 30 second scan of what google can fling out at them, I’d say its the wise person who can create an online persona that may not reflect who they really are, but reflects the very best of who they are.

    • Porter Anderson says

      Well, Kath, considering how quickly (and with such shallow data) people are willing to formulate an idea of who you are, per those online searches, the wisest person may be the one whose persona tells NOTHING about reality.

      The gaming culture, of course, has long been very happy with alter-personalities and avatars. Eventually, this may be more common in daily life, as well, folks doing their work just as avidly as they do now, but shielded behind personae that have nothing whatever to do with them.

      It’s not uncommon for people to have more than one Twitter handle, for example, in order to keep work and personal life separate. So eventually, I wonder if it will even matter that you put your best foot forward online .. maybe you simply put up a good front that’s entirely fabricated.

      Not so far from having a nom de plume, really. :-)

      Thanks for jumping in!

  18. says

    Porter, Porter, Porter…

    I scarcely know where to begin…

    First I was just shocked to see Joe Cocker at the top of a page written by you. You know, I’ve gotten so used to that “losing the accent while singing” trick, that when Hugh Jackman opened his one-man show with “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning” and DIDN’T hide his Australian accent, I was taken aback.

    I love your Bubba definition. Where I come from – St. Louis – we would not say Bubba, but rather “hoosier”. It can be attributed to men or women, and is not a compliment. I had to warn my nephew when he left for Indiana U to be careful how he uses that word.

    Then I saw myself as an example – a positive one, I’m hoping, Porter, because I never want to get on your bad side. As you know – since you gave me the final nudge – I changed my Twitter handle because it was time. I started on Twitter with a specific goal, which I met. I’m comfortable with it, although there are times when I feel like I’m at a 12-step meeting: “Hi, I’m Viki and I’m a brand.”

    Therese’s right: we are different people on different media (plural, of course; I took 2 years of Latin) depending on our purpose. I don’t post the same things on my Facebook personal page as I do on my author page or on Twitter, etc. We have the luxury of compartmentalizing our lives online, even if it feels slightly schizophrenic.

    So, most people don’t know that while I don’t follow yacht racing closely anymore, Donald Maass, I used to race on Lake Michigan. Many don’t know I was a founder of the League of Chicago Theatres. Or that I was a professional fundraiser. Or won lots of national awards for sales. It doesn’t come up often – if ever – depending on the context and the platform.

    @karlsprague told me that for someone who writes about grief, I’m pretty funny. Well, I was pretty funny before I started writing about grief. And I have to continue to be funny while I write about grief or I’ll go nuts. It explains, Porter, why my first reaction to seeing the photo of statues was “I’m glad they’re not angels” (which is a reference to an episode of Doctor Who).

    I’m flattered to be included here, I think. I’m sure we can discuss this in further detail over Campari and Absolut at #AWP12.

  19. says

    Well, Porter, you’ve done it again, roused me from my quiet Sunday afternoon musings in front of the wood stove to ponder all these relevant points. There are so many, I hardly know where to start. I know I have approached social media cautiously-thinking carefully before I tweet,RT, post on Facebook, etc ,tending to keep the personal side apart from the professional side. I dole out tiny bits of personal data on Facebook or on my blog now & then. I know whatever I post is out there forever, that what I say can be misinterpreted or has the potential to be self- defeating if I don’t think before I post. Plus, if I don’t care what someone else is having for breakfast, why would I post my own menu? I see a lot of “who cares ” kind of messages out there. As far as what persona I want to project, I’d say I want to be authentic and engaging and connect with like-minded people. I’ve met many amazing people online and when I met you in person, I felt I knew you all along. Keep doing what you’re doing ,Porter and showing us the way. It’s working. Excellent,thought-provoking post and discussion here. Thanks!


    • says

      It’s amazing how much material you get around and read, Kathy, you’re always right there with a kind comment … part of your persona that I’m sure everybody loves. Must be the effect of having a wood stove, I must look into that. :)

      I like the caution you talk about. Many people have wished they’d used more when online. What goes around comes around and around and around, ad nauseum, out here on the Grid. :)

      Thanks again and may your spring come soon and save some wood. :)

  20. says

    That… really made me stop and think.

    Because my online persona isn’t exactly like who I am if you meet me in person, but in some ways it’s MORE real. I tend to filter my vocabulary, my topic choices etc depending on who I’m talking to in real life. But when I’m writing my first thoughts hit the page and when it comes to editing them I tend to think, “Why exactly am I editing what I think?” and let my original words stand.

    But then you reach that perception versus reality vanishing point. If the online version doesn’t accurately reflect the in-person version and the in-person version doesn’t accurately reflect the online version, which one is really real?

    • says

      Exactly, Kandace. I do think it’s possible to be so involved in online work (and personae) that the sense of self in the real world may adjust or switch places at times.

      I don’t think this is a negative or “dangerous” issue, except, perhaps, to someone whose personality is already undergoing a clinical dis-integration of some kind.

      But it’s interesting to catch points a which you wonder who’s editing whom — the online persona(e) or the real-life personality (personalities)? Probably a trade. We learn things online we’d like to apply to our real-life world, and vice-versa.

      A cool internal discussion with ourselves, then. Thanks so much for reading and commenting, much appreciated!

  21. Melanie Marttila says

    I’m a n00b on the networked side of things, but I have to say I’m I’m a WYSIWYG kind of gal. Mind you, the written word can never capture or express a personality in its totality, so obviously there are limits.
    Victoria Noe has it right, though. I’m adopting each medium (ha!) one at a time, and I do find that I use them for different things and in different ways.
    My blog (only four months old and she got hacked-yesterday!-server farm insisted she be deleted) was where I talked about writing, and to a lesser extent, about learning and development, my day job. Topics ranged from autobiography (my life as a writer and what I’ve learned from it), through craft, my novel, samples of my published works, to silly things like what my best friend got me for Christmas (it’s this really cool, leather-bound journal …). I can’t say in the four months that I ever really developed a consistent persona. We’ll see what 2.0 becomes.
    I find I’m sharing most on Facebook. I put the contests I get hold of into notes, repost the cool things I receive via email, share the things I get from good people like you and Jane. I also share stuff that’s not directly linked to my writing life: music, TV, etc.
    I’m still getting the hang of Twitter. The connection at work is too slow for me to fully participate in the backchannel of Webinars, but I try. I’m mostly a lurker, but I (used to-sob) tweet my blog posts, and retweet things of interest. though unable to attend, I followed WDC12 through its hashtag feed.
    LinkedIn is a little static and it’s likely bacause I haven’t learned how to make the most of it yet, but I’ll get there.
    It’s all a process, and who I am, or appear to be, may well change along the way, but I’m not making a particular effort to hide, or reveal, anything in particular.

    Mel, the learning mutt :)

    • says

      Hi, Melanie, and thanks for reading and commenting.

      If I might recommend, you can follow the AWP conference this week, if you like at my site — http://www.PorterAnderson.com — I have a feed set up there that auto-refreshes. (Right now every two minutes, but I’ll speed it up once things start moving. Here is a preview of the conference: http://ow.ly/9kjw8 and I’ll be live-tweeting, myself, from Thursday afternoon to midday Saturday.

      The reason I mention this feed is that it might be easier for a slow connection to handle, in that it’s simply updating the display of tweets (via hashtag #AWP12). AWP is the Association of Writers and Writing Programs and is the largest conference (in terms of sheer numbers) of the year.

      Hope that might give you some insights as you continue to explore the online world of publishing. The market has taken to Twitter like a duck to water, but many people in publishing also use and enjoy Facebook extensively. Google+ with its superior audience-segmenting format is also gaining in popularity with many in publishing.

      Many thanks again –

  22. says

    Very thought-provoking post — as you can see from the many excellent comments. I couldn’t read them all (that’s what I get for being slow to get around to this) but I went from the bottom up a ways and found myself nodding a lot.

    Of course we don’t (can’t?) show ALL of our true selves online. But like many, I think my online self is an accurate portrayal of the parts of me that it touches. My writing self, my jokey self, my dog-loving self, my artsy self… And I — more than some, perhaps — don’t stick to just the topic of writing, so there are small glimpses of the rest of me as well. What I leave out, mostly, is the stuff that gets farther away from me and closer to the people I love, out of respect for their privacy. I also tend to avoid incendiary topics such as politics and religion — but that’s true in “real life” as well.

    There’s a concept called “thin slicing,” in philosophy and psychology, which is the idea that we can find patterns in things, or understand people and relationships, with surprisingly high accuracy from just a few “thin slices.” I think that’s what social media does. It allows us to “thin slice” each other — to see pieces from which we can extrapolate a whole. Maybe we don’t KNOW everything about each other, but we can grasp a certain essence about one another, and that counts for a lot.

    • Porter Anderson says

      Hey, Kristan, thanks for your comment —

      I know of “thin slicing” from Malcolm’s use of it (Gladwell) in “Blink,” and I confess I’m not such a fan in principle.

      I say “in principle” because, of course, I’ve seen it apparently work (we likely all have), that odd combo of a tiny bit of data and an equal amount of intuition that just combine to give us a “flash” that turns out to be right. I think what I wonder about thin slicing is whether we remember the times it DIDN’T work, you know? I feel sure it must not have worked for me on some occasions, and yet those don’t stick with me. Human nature, I’m sure.

      So, final thought on it, I guess your concept of how we operate online personae sounds right and I’d LIKE to think that, in fact, thin slicing is a good and accurate picture of how it works for us. But — O, me of little faith — I just fear we may want this to be true more than it actually is. Ministers’ sons are all too fond of finding our own faith lacking, so take my misgivings with a Methodist grain of salt. :)

      Jury still out. But smiling.

      Great of you to bring this input to the table, good stuff, thanks!

  23. says

    You win all the prizes for best and most consistent use of voice. I can hear you as I read you and I love that.

    I am constantly challenged to write more vibrantly and less stiffly and properly. All those years in Catholic school made me very conscious of proper grammar!

    For my online ‘persona’, I have chosen to keep my swear-like-a-sailor self away from the keyboard. (Backlash against the Catholic school propriety, perhaps?)

    I’m also pretty committed to keeping any snarky and negative comments to myself.

    Video has given me a much wider field to play in. There I am able to use humor and expression much more than in my writing.

    I respect people for carefully choosing how they’re portrayed online.

    My one beef: people who look nothing like their avatar. If I see you at a conference, I do not want to be shocked because IRL you look at least ten years older. I want to be able to use the avatar as a way to recognize you.

    Thanks, as always, for raising the bar, initiating the good discussions, and demonstrating voice in writing.