O! that you were your self; but, love, you are
No longer yours, than you your self here live…
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Most of us understand nowadays that when we talk about “author platforming,” we mean communicating with our target audiences.
- Communicating with our target audiences means, in plain speech, connecting with readers, potential buyers of our deathless prose and/or poetry.
- Connecting with readers is enabled in historically unprecedented ways by our “social” media, or, in Andersonian terms, the “grid” of online communications networks.
- 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.
- Thus, we may find that we’re all from Sheffield singing our hearts out with Cocker as artful crackers.
- Two-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.
All 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.
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.