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Who do you present to the world when you’re online?

In the first moments of a conversation with Dr B Price Kerfoot on Skype did he not think what I was thinking? That the public images we had of each other were probably a decade old?

I didn’t take a screen grab, but the 30 something doctor in collar, tie and white coat taken in the sunshine, perhaps on the day of a promotion could have been his younger brother, when, if he can excuse me describing him thus, I saw the same person, a thick head of greying hair, a face, like mine, like the bark of a mature tree rather than a sapling.

As I write below, his spirit, like mine (I hope) remains that of an enthusiastic twenty-something.

The same occurred with the Elluminate session we had in H800 the other day … Shaun on the webcam (initially in a scratchy black and white image) is not the person who goes by in the General Forum. Are we all guilty of this. men included? We go with something in our late thirties or early to mid-forties?

What image should we use to portray ourselves?

Is their such as thing as best practice? Ought it to be like joining a gym, we have a snapshot taken on a webcam and this current image, no matter how it comes out, becomes who we are?

There’d be a riot of complaints.

Do so few of use dislike or distrust what we see when we look at our faces in the mirror each morning?

It has been the subject of research, role play in online education; I’d like to do some of my own.

I began a year ago with this. I liked the picture, felt it was healthy, robust and confidenct and reasonably confident. I should have looked at the date on it. August 2004. Happy and sunny days. You age under stress and from the mid-40s it doesn’t take much to add ten years -all that sun in the past, being unwell.

I then went with this.

An image I long ago used in my eleven year old blog. I wanted something that was indicative of the content and would last. I’m still inclined to run with this. It is indicative of what I think blogging is all about – the contents of your mind, what you think i.e. you ‘mind bursts’ as I call them on numerous blogs.

In my three Facebook personas I am in turn:

While on Skype I use a image taken with the webcam on the day of an online interview – this is a month ago, so as contemporary as it gets.

I have this image fronting Tumblr taken 21 years ago, in moments of euphoria having just successfully negotiated a 15m pond of slush on a pair of skis in front of a crowd of early May skiers below the Tignes Glacier, France. The day I proposed to my wife. We’d be ‘going out together’ for three days … we’ve now been together, well 21 years.

In my original diary we could create banner adds to publicise what we had to say to fellow writers. One of these has a spread as long as the contents of my diaries and blog: they run from a 13 year old Head Chorister in cassock and ruffs, though gap, undergrad, to ad exec, video director, with four woman I didn’t marry.

My first professional ‘portrait’ for the Worth Media corporate website was this:

Increasingly, I am thinking of using a self-portrait, that this attempt to capture myself through my minds eye is more telling that a photograph.

I could use the drawing I did of a 14 year old .. with sketched in variations of what I imagined I’d look like with a beard or moustache. What amuses me most here is how I superimpose these attachments as if I were in a school play, the beard is clearly on the soft face of a pre-pubescent boy – I should have looked at my grandfather for the face I’d get, with the more bulbous nose and pronounced chin.

Talking of which, I find it both intriguing and damming that I am the spitting image of my grandfather, that my own children see images of him age 20 and think it has to be me. All that changes as he ages into a 40 and 50 year old is he goes bald, whereas I am thus far limited to a thinning of the crown.

This I’m afraid, if the age of my children in the rest of the picture is something to go by, is some seven years ago 🙁

My only reason for picking it is that I haven’t renewed my contact lenses and am inclined, after twenty years wearing them to give up. Maybe laser surgery when I have the cash?

This is contemporary. It doesn’t say who I am, just ‘what’ I am. Wearing a child’s hat (he’s a dad), the head-set to record notes onto a digital recorder (for a podcast), a coat he bought for honeymooning in the Alps (we went skiing) 18 years ago …

I have of course. not changed much since 1979:

The Dracular Spectacula, People’s Theatre, Newcastle. The teeth were made from dentine and fitted by an orthodontist.I rather foolishly sharpened the fangs and bit through my own lip on the last night. I had to sing while gargling my own blood. The joy of memories.

Which rather takes me back to the original point – who are we? how do we representative ourselves online in a single image when we are all a sum of a complex of parts?

Is it any wonder that we present multiple selves online, the more so the longer we’ve lived?

I don’t remember my father being around to take this picture. though clearly he did. I do remember the great-big wellies though and the joy of water spilling over the top if I could find a puddle or pond deep enough. And the jumpers knitted by my granny (sleeves always too long). And the trees in the garden I climbed behind. And my sister and brother …

How set in were the learning process by then?

My behaviour and responses? What learning experiences would count? At home or school … had I even started, or was I climbing up the curtains at the nursery school at the end of Pollwarth Drive?


1 Comment

  1. Great question and great answers. Like others, I present multiple personalities online. If I join a forum, I’ll choose an avatar that ‘fits me’ at the time. None of them will be the real me. I think it’s because I’m shy. I know a guy who always shows a 10 year old photograph of himself and even lies about his age – knocking 10-15 years off the true age. I guess he hasn’t yet come to terms with aging.

    I once met an guy who was a member of an online forum. He was nothing like the guy I expected to find. It took me some weeks or months to get over this, but I wonder what he thought of me? Was he disappointed? I think a large part of our thoughts about other people online comes from our own expectations and thought processes. It is as much our own imaginations as the image being portrayed by ourselves and others.

    Great topic.

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