I just read an interesting article by Eve Simon talking about how to use Twitter for branding. While she was talking specifically about ways of thinking that apply to businesses using Twitter to leverage a customer/client/user base, if you apply what she says to your personal tweets, you hit upon some of the things I have been thinking about lately.
Historically, the way to approach the Internet was with extreme caution and lots of thought about how to protect your personal information, often even including your real name. This kind of caution and paranoia comes easily to me, and makes a lot of sense.
About two years ago, one of my major aliases got compromised, and I felt violated. It was not done maliciously, just thoughtlessly, and I realized that not everyone thought the way I did about security and safety. With the recent, and not so recent, mess over Facebook’s lack of privacy (which Danah Boyd has expounded upon at length with a great deal of thought and intelligence), privacy on the Internet, what it means and what rights individuals have to it is the question du jour.
Bear with me, but my next step is theology. I was raised Quaker, with the associated beliefs in integrity, equality, peace and simplicity — which doesn’t gel with paranoia or falsely representing myself. Two years ago, I wouldn’t have said I was falsely representing myself by having an alias; after all, I am the same person under all the names I use, and I maintain integrity under all of them. But with all the thought about privacy issues, I’ve had to consider my different personas.
Even when I write or meet people under my own name, I have different things which I feel are appropriate to disclose depending upon my audience. I am different people at family gatherings than I am with friends, and different again with co-workers or students. Those differences translate to virtual space, though with a different set of splits, and I am an egoist on Myspace, a series of obscure non-sequitors on Facebook, and an artist on Twitter. I know who my cross-over readers are, and I draw parallels in the different virtual mediums tailored to them. I am honest in all, but selective.
And that selective goes back to the first article about building a branded identity on Twitter. Is there a way to brand as nothing more, less, or different from one’s self? As it becomes increasingly difficult to hold identities separate from each other, is our world forcing a more complete honesty, a deeper level of integrity upon us? Will we find other ways to separate the different parts of ourselves despite the gravitational spiral towards transparency that the ever amassing data base that is the Internet is building? Do we have a right to do so, or a responsibility to work on becoming a unified whole?
Perhaps transhumanism will be as much about unity of the individual as it will be about any genetic and technical modifications we make. Radical transparency may have as much influence on the evolution of humanity as fire once did.
I find that strangely comforting.