I have a good friend, Todd, who is my go-to guy for all my techno-tension issues (that sounds kinkier than it is). He is a real person in my life: I met him at a Pilates class and have done things with him (and his delightful wife, Catherine, upon whom I have a raging girl crush — oops, did I just say that out loud?) like taking walks, going food shopping, and sharing meals. This, of course, is in contradistinction to my “online friends” whom I’ve never met.
Recently Todd and I chatted on Facebook about the ambivalence I feel around the whole privacy issue – on Facebook and on the web more generally. Todd posted a great link (http://www.futurelab.net/blogs/marketing-strategy-innovation/2010/05/facebook_utility_utilities_get.html) that pushed me to go deeper, to confront this ambivalence and get a bit more honest with myself about what’s really going on for me.
Why bother going deeper with this issue? Because I think dealing with this is high up on my list of what gives life meaning. Most days I feel bombarded with evidence that we’re all on the fast track to hell in a handbag. Fugeddabout tea parties, mental health care, agribusiness, corporate hegemony and whether or not I am making enough widgets fast enough to evade the next round of layoffs: Just the environmental and economic situation alone have me wondering who and how to be. How do I live through this mess, manufacturing some sort of happiness and hope for myself and my daughters (bio, step, and symbolic)? Seems to me figuring out who I am is a good starting point, and that necessitates looking a tad deeper into the notion of who I am online.
What’s the dilemma? Basically, I want to sell my books to strangers and I want anyone who wants to find me to be able to do so. AND I want to protect myself from identity theft and spam-hackers, while I prevent “misuse” of my personal information especially by those very same corporations I am actively boycotting. Misuse is an intentionally vague word – I’m not sure what “they” are doing with my personal information and why I should be afraid (to quote Todd) or angry, but I am willing to bet that if I’m not enraged it’s just because I’m not paying enough attention.
But here’s what I am informed about: real experience. What it feels like to try to pitch my book to a bookstore owner, or how I feel when someone picks up my book, scans the back cover, puts it down and walks away. I know the visceral cringe of self doubt and Not Good Enough; I know them all too well.
So when I say “I need to be on Facebook/write a blog/maintain a website/create a media platform in order to promote my book” that makes sense. At face value, it is a no-brainer. But then, when I whine about protecting my privacy and declare myself to be a Slow Food loving, anti-simulation, café loitering, atmospheraholic, extoller of fleshly virtues, forget-Facebook-and-come-wander-in-the-woods-with-me Commie Pinko Fag, it all sounds a little hollow. I’m finding it tough to do both without feeling like a fraud.
Why? Because one of the reasons I embrace the web in all its Facebookian glory is that I’m scared of the real interactions that happen in the real world. When things get tough on my blog, I can just hit delete. I can delay and use my word processor to craft a whipsmart reply. There ain’t no backspace, delete, cut-n-paste option when I’m face to face.
I’m not slick, I’m not technohip, I’m not snarky, and I’m not mainstream fare, but online I have the option to edit all I say and all I reveal about myself to support a presenting a version of me I think I can control. Like when I was an online dater: I scrubbed any hint of negativity from my Match.com profile to present a snapshot of me that “oozed cheery goodwill.” In person, rejection and dejection are real possibilities. Online, nothing but a HoneyMelon HikerChick grin.
To take the promoting and marketing work that I do online into the brick and mortar, flesh and blood world, I’d need a lot more time. But that’s a handy excuse. Anyone who’s seen my Pathwords score knows I’m as sucked into the time wasting aspects of the web as the next junkie. The reason I’m sitting at home in my PJs staring at a screen instead of pressing the flesh right here in my local beloved community is that I’m chicken. Scared of rejection, scared of looking stupid, scared of being unveiled as Not Good Enough. Scared of feeling like a failure.
Ok, now that confession is over and I’ve published this sentiment for the Whole Wide World to read, I guess I’ll have to do something about it, right? Ok, right after I update my status.