This is a ridiculous problem to have, I know, but I place so much thought and worry on my public-facing online properties.
I grew up online with BBSs, message boards, and journalling. I was nine when I found my first group of Internet friends in 2001. Spaces online were personal and tight-knit in the corners of the Web I visited.
It was tough to reconcile the communities I was part of with my other interests and the person I saw myself becoming in a few months or years. I imagine that reconciliation is the crux of teenagedom and “finding yourself”. All that interpersonal wayfinding happened (and is happening!) online for me. On the archived, never truly deleted, screenshotted, Way-Back-Machine–able World Wide Web.
The permanence is terrifying. An audience of 0, 5, 300, 900, or thousands makes little difference when you remember what you upload and submit has the potential to never, ever go away. You can burn a diary or throw away passed notes, but there’s no way to know what will happen to the content you put online — twelve years ago or twelve seconds ago.
Having control of my data, posted to spaces I pay for, adds a level of serious anxious pressure atop the permanence. My old personal blog contained some really shitty thoughts. Not long after, I learned better and changed my views. Those posts are gone; the domain is gone, even; the content is in some .xml file on some harddrive, just so I have a record of it. I’m embarrassed by those posts. They don’t reflect who I am now.
So, you can’t see them. You can’t go back more than a few days in my Twitter stream. You can’t look at my teen antics I posted to Tumblr a few years ago either.
I want to present not my best self, but my actual and current self. I want to be my best self and I’m always working on it. How the Internet — from two people to two thousand people — perceives that is up to them, but the content I put forth it up to me. I govern the narrative.
Authority over that narrative freezes me up. I’ve filled Field Notes with ideas for blog posts. I’ve saved more Tumblr usernames than I can remember for a blank canvas. I’ve wasted money on domain names for a good excuse to have a “fresh start.”
When there’s a sense of permanence (blogging! archives! pretty permalinks!), I feel a need to have a streamlined identity. Fit into a neat little box. I’m a designer for the web, so I should comment on typefaces in UIs and post WIPs and case studies. I’m a developer for the web, so I should share code snippets and tell you about my new open source endeavor. I love makeup, so I should do YouTube haul videos and give you coupon codes to buy my favourite products. I play video games, so I should review titles as I play them and critique the gaming environment. I like fashion, so I should move into an apartment with better lighting and eventually labels should “care of” me things. I’m a progressive and privileged young adult, so I should be posting thinkpieces on Medium (or Svbtle if I’m leet enough), not here.
The respected & revered individuals in online spaces don’t cover more than one of the above categories. Jack of unknown trades, master of the one they blog about. I’ve shied away from posting — even though I have ideas, even though I’ve wanted to, even though I’ve had partially written drafts, even — because I couldn’t find one specialty blogging silo to fit myself into best.
“You don’t always have to be who they want you to be, you know.”
“I happen to like being adored, thank you!”
Having varied interests is good. Writing about them is good. Writing is good. Expression is good. Watch out.