If there’s something that I feel confident claiming about myself it’s that I’m a careful person.
(Sure, I’ve done my share of dumb stuff – but usually it wasn’t thoughtless.)
But in everyday life, I’m careful enough that I have trouble making decisions, from what items to purchase at the grocery store to what career I want to pursue.
This has everything to do with my upbringing. My parents are careful, kind people and I grew up in a town small enough for actions to have very real, lasting consequences.
But now, the world is bigger. And not just because I’ve leapt from the mountains of Stamford to the village of Geneseo and now, the city of Syracuse, but because I exist in various manifestations of myself on the Internet.
To address that further, the Web has without a doubt become an integral part of how I interact with the world on a day-to-day basis. I extend what I consider my “self” via the Internet – socially, intellectually, personally and professionally.
Take a typical Saturday: I wake up, check my iPhone for the news (expand my knowledge base), check my email (connect professionally), perhaps go for a jog (listen to music via applications or downloaded information), make plans with a friend (communicate via airwaves), get take-out for lunch (engage the Internet to check out a menu, use a telephone to order – or maybe look up a recipe to cook myself).
This is only the first few hours of the day. Countless times, I use my phone to look up information. (Disclosure: My toenail fell off the other day – turns out this is normal. Would I have known that without Google? Nope. Probably wouldn’t have bothered looking into it either had the information not been so readily available.) I also constantly record observations and make to-do lists.
These examples may have a lot to do with my personality and behavior, but I certainly suspect others do the same or something comparable.
But to return to my earlier point, the “digital extension” of who I am is especially important to me because the one major decision I have carefully made in my life has everything to do with the Internet: I’ve decided to become a journalist. And what’s more? I’ve created a blog.
One seems to follow from the next, I suppose, but the each of those decisions, particularly the latter, was painstaking for me to make.
Social Media – any media, too – are an extension of societal and interpersonal interactions. It’s almost as if these platforms and the Internet as a whole allow for us engage on another level of consciousness.
I’ve been swallowing my words, though, and hesitant to take the latest step because I’ve been concerned for some time that the extension of my personality on the Web might reflect poorly on me as a professional or individual. A lot of ideas are popping around in my mind – not all of them useful or interesting, or developed.
But instead of looking at blogging as a polished, finished publication, this is a kind of bildungsroman – I’m constantly growing, changing and developing my thoughts and reactions to what is going on around me. I’m constantly fascinated by new and different and the same things in different ways. But that’s how we all think. By blogging, I now have the chance to document those thought processes, and if I’m lucky, other people will relate.
It’s cool because I can project my thoughts into a space in which others can interact with them. It’s perfect for me because writing comes easily and enjoyably.
I also have to ask myself “what’s the cost of not doing it?” By choosing not to participate in social media, I am still guiding my identity. For some, that’s not necessarily a bad decision. Rejection or disinterest is a statement as much as avid enthusiasm is a statement. Additionally, not having the information or awareness about social media says something about an individual’s identity, too.
In choosing a career path, I have chosen to identify as a journalist and a writer. As someone aware of the benefits of social media – its wealth of information and value as a means of communication (more in a future post!)– I feel that the virtual extension of my identity is significant. That is also to say that a lack of presence in social media for my generation (of journalists … and others) potentially reflects negatively on public identity.
It’s funny, though, that this wasn’t easy for me to come around to. I certainly wasn’t the first joiner when it came to Facebook, Twitter or other social media, though I was at least mildly aware of it all along. I admit to some uneasiness when it comes to a world in which communication takes place across airwaves instead of face-to-face (I’ll discuss this further in a future post). And as editor of my college newspaper, my advisor liked to give me a hard time about my old-fashioned approach to The Lamron; I treated our physical paper as our organization’s ultimate output and let social media and even our online publication take the back burner.
But the more I read about social media, engage in its platforms and see it in practice, the more I realize that in order to positively identify in this age, I must not be content to scoff at the depravity of some social media use. The bottom line is that when we look around at the world that we work within, it’s quite remarkable, and instead of dwelling on its flaws, it’s a lot more beneficial to figure out what its strengths are.