Other bits of myself

If you are on the AoIR email list, Air-L, you have probably seen the recent, unusually lively discussion on what constitutes “interesting” Facebook status updates and tweets. It was triggered by a CNN article, the 12 most annoying Facebookers, in which the writer bluntly mocked different types of Facebook users and their ‘uncool’ status updates: the “Let-Me-Tell-You-Every-Detail-of-My-Day Bore”, the “Sympathy-Baiter”, the “Obscurist”, etc.

Some members on the Air-L immediately reacted to this by saying that it is such lists that are annoying and by questioning who has the right to determine what is relevant and meaningful and what is trivial and boring in the context of online conversations – which are particularly prevailing through social networking sites. Various issues were then raised around the topic, such as social narcissism, multiple audiences and Goffmanesque impression management, the compartmentalisation[!] of (online) personality, cultural etiquette and colloquialisms, the age-old debate on the distinction between the private and the public – or even on proxemics (although Edward T. Hall wasn’t mentioned) – in the virtual world, the (supposedly) gender-oriented differences in the choice of subjects and tones, our Dionysian need for emotional connection (although Dionysus wasn’t mentioned), and the good old Uses and Gratification theory. It goes on and on. (BTW, I didn’t attribute each of these to its respective contributor here partly because some of these themes emerged from a back-and-forth among a group of a few members, and partly because I judge that an email list like the Air-L is not as public a domain as, say, a Webpage.)

Anyhoo, that’s right, I’ve read them all so far. I didn’t intend to jump into the discussion, but it’s just that this happens to be something I have given thought to lately. I joined both Facebook and Twitter quite early in their days. Given my research area, sometimes I feel expected to stay on top of these things. Luckily, I am always quite eager to try out new Web services anyway. However, to be honest, those two didn’t do much for me. Only since this year that I have been sort of blowing life into my Facebook account. And over the past summer, I thought I would invigorate my Twitter account too. I tested out applications like TweetDeck so that I could update both Facebook and Twitter simultaneously, and Twitter Tools so that I could archive my future tweets at my blog.

That said, when I was actually ready to roll, it struck me that I was posting different genres of stuff on different SN sites and that despite the ‘affordances’ those tools provided for me, aggregation might not be what I wanted. It didn’t feel fitting to synchronise and aggregate what I post. After all, as Suler (2004) points out, “[d]ifferent communication channels express different aspects of identity”. Hmmm, I think I made it sound like Multiple Personality Disorder. Let me be clear. I am not saying that I would present myself selectively or even create different personas. After all, that’s practically not possible. If you were interested to see other material by me than what I write at this blog, you could always friend me on Facebook, ilchon me on Cyworld or follow me on Twitter. (Like anyone would be… 😉 )

It might have something to do with different audiences or it might have something to do with different interfaces. Or a combination of both and more. Besides, cynical as it may sound, I doubt that ‘others’ (or ‘audiences’, if you prefer) are taken hugely into consideration when someone tweets or updates his/her status. But not in the studying-one’s-own-navel sense. At least in my own case, it seems that my attitude towards my little spaces at various social networking sites is just like one towards pets. In other words, it’s like how I would have been if I had owned a Tamagotchi.

Since we are on the subject, here are a couple of news items you might also like to read.

Crazy, huh? (Oh, I didn’t realise though that a pet theme is running through this post.) Where is this world going to, I wonder?

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