Fractured Identities

I was around lots of writerly types this weekend so there was lots of thinking and discussing going on.  And one of the ideas that came up as sort of tangential to one of those conversations was this thought that nowadays it’s possible for people to have multiple identities because of online versus real world interactions.

Maybe this has always been the case.  I certainly know that my small town Texas relatives will say things with “family” that they won’t in public.  And that many people have a work persona that’s different from who they are at home.  And that’s not even accounting for people who live alternative lifestyles in private that they don’t share in public or with friends or family outside of that lifestyle.

But I think being able to blog or join twitter or Facebook or whatever other sites has taken this even one step farther.  It’s quite possible that an author can portray themselves as a man of one age on one writing forum and a woman of a different age on another.  Or that they can be a man in real life–in all ways that that is determined these days–and yet write as a woman and interact online as a woman.

We all know this happens, but we tend to forget it and take what we see on the surface as the truth.

(A few recent examples.  The author of that gronking erotica story was listed as a woman but is a man, JK Rowling writing as a man, that romance writer who died last year who it turns out was a man writing as a woman for the last fifty or so years.)

I, personally, am not comfortable going so far that I’d represent myself as having a different gender or age, but I definitely do show different aspects of my personality in different settings.

For example, I’m on Facebook as who I am in real life.  I blog here as a writer with a pen name.  For those who know me in both settings I’d say there’s substantial overlap  between the two–the facts of my life are the same–but there are definitely divergences as well.

I tend to censor certain material in both settings.  So while both overlap with the real-life version of me, neither one is wholly who I am.  I think of it as being a 30-sided dice and that each setting shows maybe three or four sides of that dice.  The whole dice is actually me, but people only see a limited subset of that because not all sides are appropriate to show in all settings.

Which becomes interesting when people also fill in what they don’t see with what they assume must be there.

And then it gets even more interesting if you interact with people through multiple venues without realizing it.  So, for example, you as you interact with someone as their pen name.  And then they as they are in real life interact with you through your pen name.  Neither one of you realize that it’s the same two people interacting.  That can lead to you simultaneously liking and hating the same person.  (That kind of happened with the Dear Author situation, although I believe in that one she was aware of both interactions even though the authors on the other end were not.)

I don’t know where I’m going with this whole thought, but I thought it was intriguing enough to share.  So, there you go.  I shared it with you.  It does make for an intriguing story idea or two, though, doesn’t it?

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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