My friend and I were talking a few weeks ago about the differences between our online personalities and our "real" personalities. We concluded that, as we know each other, our writing is a pretty close reflection of who we are as people. But what of our Internet acquaintances? What do they make of these fragments? Is their picture complete?
Since the dawn of the Internet age, I have poured hundreds of hours into sending emails, exchanging instant messages, and now posting essays in this space. In a real way I have encoded some of my electronic DNA into this cyber-ether. And yet the nuance of body language, vocal inflection, facial expression, and eye contact are all lost upon the reader in this cold medium. These subtle cues affect in-person communications in rich and subtle ways, and I marvel at the social contract that we attempt to fulfill in cyberspace without these unspoken terms and conditions.
There is a saying in pop psychology that "we all wear masks." If that is so, then the picture formed by our online personas is simply a variation on that theme, and an extension of print media's personality artifacts. But what if this new phenomenon runs deeper? What if self-publishing, once the narrow prerogative an elite few, now accessible to the masses through electronic means, has opened a window into the human soul where none was before? It's an interesting question.
Maybe I should drink less coffee. Then I'd be asleep instead of thinking about such nonsense.