Identity Outage

I just outed this journal to a friend. It's been a while since I did that, especially since I so rarely update here anymore it hardly seems worth mentioning. But we were talking about something and I'd written an entry on it, and it just seemed to make more sense to point her to it.

I wasn't quite sure how to explain it to her, so of course I went for maximum drama. "There's something you should probably know about me," I said. Then paused. (The secret to drama is the significant pause.)
"...yes?" she prodded, her voice heavy with the "uh-oh" tone of dread.
"Well, it's impossible to say this without sounding like a freakazoid, so I'm just going to say it." Deep breath (another important drama-lading technique). Who knows what she's thinking at this point. "I've, uh, had an online journal since 1998."

She took it pretty well, I think. She didn't even realize there was such a thing back then, since like many folks she thinks "blogs" are a relatively new development. When I told her I was second-generation--although you could also make a case for third, depending on how you trace the journal genealogy--she was very surprised. I'm so old-school!

Anyway, this ties in with some other things I've been thinking about lately. (Well, forever, but lately in a specific way.) Not too long ago there was a meme going around certain neighborhoods of the Internet, "Ten Things I Assume You Know About Me." I enjoyed reading it, and thought about doing it myself, but aside from not really having time I realized that the interesting point, to me, is slightly different. In a way I assume everyone reading here or elsewhere knows everything, or nothing, based on what I've written about in the past. Mostly, though, I'm interested in the question of how the specific things you might know (and not know) about me color your opinion of what I'm "really" like. And this, I think, is true whether or not we know each other in real life. The specific bits of knowledge we have about a person (or anything, really) affect our interactions with them in lots of ways. I mean, that is a pretty big chunk of my professional background and academic interest, figuring out how perceptions are shaped.

I like to think about the different information sets people might have, and how that might affect what they think--in this instance, of me. For example, someone who knows that I went to a moderately fancy college, majored in Italian, have lived in Australia and Europe, traveled on four continents, and love pretty things, might have a certain idea of me. Someone who knows I was married at 22 and separated at 38 after working from home all those years, childless but with cat, and have now gone back to graduate school, might have another. What if they know that neither of my parents had a college degree, my husband and I lived with his parents in their two-bedroom apartment for the first three and a half years of our marriage, and that for a few very unhappy weeks of my life I made my living selling vacuum cleaners door to door?

There are a million possible examples, of course, and to make it even more fun, the impression I think the above groupings might make could be completely off the mark. I can make assumptions, but that's all they are, just like the assumptions we make about other people all the time.

So I am curious to know how awareness of this space and this (admittedly kind of hard to explain) pastime will fit into the mental picture my friend has of me. Both due to the fact that it exists, and some of the things she might read should she choose to go wandering about. At the same time, drama aside, I do feel that it's an important enough part of my life fabric that any friendship is bound to remain very superficial unless this fact is known. I don't expect people to read it (nor do I mind if they do), but I don't want it to be a secret. For one thing, a considerable proportion of the people with whom I interact are acquaintances from online, and I don't want to have to stumble around for a half-truth to explain how I know them. Secrets are hard to keep, and a lot of times the reasons for keeping them aren't that good. At least, my reasons aren't, since a lot of the time they mostly have to do with concern about how the secret fact will alter the image people have of me.

This is probably as good a place as any to do another sort of outing. In other words, there's something about me you should probably know. A lot of you (all of you? some of you? I actually have no idea who is reading these days) already do. One reason I've never made any kind of formal announcement, having long since cared about keeping it a secret, is that I have tended to assume that pretty much everyone who wants to know, already does. (This is all sounding much bigger than it really is, isn't it? I'm tempted to leave it ambiguous, because I'm sure people's imaginations can come up with much more exciting scenarios than the real one.)

I have another journal. Have had for the last, uh, almost three years.

It's very different from this one, though, and that's why I'm doing Holidailies here and not there. Here is a place where I write journal entries the old-fashioned way; there I'm just as likely to post a random thought or question or silly comment as to write something personal. It is, you might say, more of a blog.

I will save the details for another day, because there's a whole separate entry in there, one that plays back to my ever-favorite theme of fantasy and reality. For now, though, my point in bringing it up is to reflect on the odd convergence of people who know me primarily through this journal, people who know me primarily through the other one and the, um, particular milieu in which it originated, and people who know me primarily through offline interaction and are reading this for whatever reason. How different, or similar, do I look from these various vantage points? I feel like the inside of a kaleidoscope, shifting fragmented parts reassembled into a picture that may or may not resemble the one I have of myself.

This entry is all about me, because, well, it's my journal. But I am really interested in the same question applied to lots of different things: how do our different lenses change what we see? How does this affect the choices we make in our daily life about what we buy, what policies we support, what we read and watch and listen to? I am a geek, especially when it comes to Identity & Co. Perception, the final frontier.