Guest Post: Examining that Strange Place Where Online Identity and Real Life Collide

16 Jan

My blog Daisybones is my Room of One’s Own- a safe haven where I process my experience as a(n) earthlingwomanmotherartistwriterdepressive in a context. The first two decades of life saw me screaming into the clichéd abyss of ratty notebooks, and (ignoring here the complicated and exhausting meanings of online community) the discovery of great numbers of other people in the blogging venue writing through similar life experiences was empowering simply in the numbers.

I write there under a pseudonym, and the freedom in that lets me shine. The concern that makes me hide my real identity is particular. There are the typical concerns of parents who write about their children, but to be honest that isn’t my real worry. My lifestyle and opinions are, in my insulated Appalachian world, a little bit radical. I work in a public charity, and I have married into a purdy darn traditional family. It does scare me that the in-laws or a potential donor for my organization finding one of the posts hidden in the silly mundane life-of-mom writings and discover my (gasp!horrors!) bisexuality or disdain for most religious organizations. (They would certainly, on my tamest day, see language that would do Carlin proud.) I’m only mildly worried for myself, but what if said charitable guy neglected to donate? It’s a smaller deal than I make it, but a bigger deal than you think it is if you aren’t from a small town culture. I’m sturdy under the scrutiny of technical critique- find fault in my syntax or weakness in the composition of my paintings and I’ll edit and rework with enthusiasm. I’m afraid, though that I give far too much attention to being liked, and that’s probably behind some of this.

So I was comfortable and secure in my decision to go incognito, alerting a few beloved friends to my identity. But now some things are happening. Friends of those few friends know about the blog, and friends of those friends have found me on Twitter. A Board member of my charity found me, but we haven’t acknowledged it yet. I’m rather hoping he found the whole scene psychotic and bailed. (Gods, isn’t it? The initial impression of Twitter is of spastic communiqué droplets tossed out as if by meth-addled passers-by.) At the same time, I’ve started to produce some art again, creating an Etsy shop and beginning to build an online identity for my guise as art seller. These identities are blurring a little, and I’m at a crossroads wondering whether to separate them more or erase the line totally- it’s early in the game; I don’t have huge blog traffic or art sales so now is the time to plan.

I’m worrying about the ramifications. It could be argued that I’m overly complicating an issue that really could be as simple as this question: Am I willing to passively come out publicly as bisexual? I call it passive because if I cross link my web identities a new contact would have to go to Daisybones and notice a reference to said sexuality. Well… and then care. It’s all strange worry, because I’m Queen Heteronormative. I’m married to a guy and have reproduced with him and we are monogamous. The sexual freedom at Daisybones is really only the absence of a censor that might keep me from referring to a long past date or a celebrity crush. (Hi Maggie! Call me and I will leave the holler for you. We’ll raise the girls together in Sapphic bliss.) And passive outness is an excellent term, by the way. My approach to outing has always been to divulge that factoid if asked or if it comes up. I have more conservative coworkers now than I ever have, and it hasn’t come up. They are all well aware that queer rights is my “pet” cause, and I seriously doubt they’d be very shocked to find I’m located in the initials LGBT.

So far my plan of action is to worry and write annoying amounts on the matter while doing nothing. I refer to the art blog on the personal blog sometimes, but never vice-versa. I’m just a little tired of having digital multiple personalities. I feel like I’m missing a marketing opportunity by not showcasing on my blog, too, where I see more hits. I’m interested in discussion here, safely tucked away from my own sites. How should I handle myself? Is there real value in anonymous identities that aren’t carefully protected? What is the responsibility, in the digital age, of social media? If I represent my company on Facebook by day, should I be tweeting away drunk as all get out that evening? 

Daisy is a re-emerging artist, toddler’s mama, and web junkie in West Virginia, USA. She blogs streams-of-consciousness at daisybones.com and (taking a deep breath, saying WTF, and hoping no one she knows IRL reads this, reveals that she… OMG…) posts sketches, art musings at twoserpents.com and works for sale at twoserpents.etsy.com. She Twitters as daisybones and twoserpentsart and wonders, in the lyrical styling of Joss Whedon:

Where do we go from here?

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5 Responses to “Guest Post: Examining that Strange Place Where Online Identity and Real Life Collide”

  1. Kathyp January 16, 2009 at 2:22 pm #

    I feel like I’m missing a marketing opportunity by not showcasing on my blog, too, where I see more hits.

    I have a photoblog and a personal blog, and I often toy with the idea of merging the two, or giving one of them the axe. (Probably the personal blog, as I am not a great diary writer. My photoblog gets twice the despite that I rarely promote it, but I like the feeling of community that comes along with personal blogging.

  2. daisybones January 16, 2009 at 4:03 pm #

    Yeah… I think I’m a diarist by nature. The personal blogging comes much more naturally to me than anything else, but I can’t sell my brainz on Etsy. It is really hard, though, to keep up with more than one blog, much less more than one “identity.”

  3. Marcy January 16, 2009 at 5:31 pm #

    I used to blog anonymously, and then had a business (music) site, and then started a pregnancy / baby site for the family and friends, and hated the multiplicity so much I went with the merger. Fortunately, I got PPD, which opened the door to being frank about previous depression and such, too. There’s still the potential (and the reality) of backlash, but I still feel much better not hiding.

  4. daisybones January 19, 2009 at 11:11 am #

    Thanks for your story, Marcy. I didn’t really mention my depression here, but that’s another reason I’ve loved my “safe space.” On my art blog, though, it’s become obvious that I’m suffering with it, so I’ve been open about it w/o making the blog be about my moods.

  5. Aurelia January 19, 2009 at 11:19 am #

    I’d love to be able to merge all my identities online and just be me, but it would never work. As it is, the political/professional people I associate with who know a few things, freak out and lose it at the mere mention of personal stuff.

    So I give up, and just maintain the two me’s. Someday, it will be an issue, I think.

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