“He thinks that man is me
He knew him at a glance!”
Herbert Kretzmer (Les Miserables)
Ever since our class on Thursday night, this song has been stuck in my head. I have sketched and thought for the past couple of nights over the subject of digital identity. I realize that the song from Les Mis, has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with my course work or with digital identity, but it has called to me. That one simple phrase “Who am I?”
Jean Valjean, in Les Mis, hides who he is and allows the public to see a persona of authority and control. However, his sense of justice and right, his past crimes are always in his mind. He is a man who has 2 identities, until that one moment when all is revealed. I hear those words from the song, “He thinks that man is me” and I wonder, how many of us are honestly ourselves in our digital identity. If I met many of my Tweeps, would I really know them? During the conversation on Thursday, I kept hearing and referring to the “Teacher” identity we have online, and I began to question how I identify myself digitally. Who am I? Do I define myself as teacher, diabetic, female, acitvist, Trekkie, Canadian, Whovian? Which identity am I projecting in the world of Social Media? How do I stay true to myself and my beliefs, my nationalism, my passions all while protecting my career, my identity?
I know that people will say, “You should never post anything online that you wouldn’t say in real life.” Even that thought gives me pause. There are things I would post to my fellow union activists that I would never to say to my administrator. I post many fandom articles and pictures that I would never talk to many friends about. I often say things in real life with the sarcastic inflection that has yet to be made into a special font for Twitter (although a sarcastic font would be very appreciated).
When I joined FB years ago, I joined as me. Not teacher me, not Geek girl, not union thug. I don’t FB much anymore. I use it as a random base to keep in touch with people not on Twitter. Twitter is my place now. I lurked for a long time there. I followed celebrities because I really didn’t know who to follow. I was still “home” me, the person I am outside of the school environment. But as I look back on my years on Twitter, I have seen an evolution, a growth, a statement perhaps of who I am. Maybe it has come about through my own personal comfort level, perhaps it is due to a confidence I haven’t had in the past. I don’t know.
Who am I?
Can I conceal myself for evermore?
Pretend I’m not the man I was before?
Yet these words still ring to me. We have entered an age where our every move can be documented and shared with the great world around us. We, as adults, can have the conversation with our friends about respecting our privacy and not posting photos that are reserved for the albums of our youth. My peers and I can conceal those university photos and horribly embarrassing moments from our past. We can “pretend” to be the digital persona we are now, without the baggage. Our young people though do not have that luxury. A stupid photo taken at a friend’s party can ruin a scholarship opportunity, future employers can scour FB pages and Instagram to see who they are hiring and this makes me angry and concerned for the children I see online everyday. They don’t get the chance to hide their “shameful” incidents, their youthful transgressions. Posting photos and thoughts is a part of their everyday existence. They have become their own paparazzi, documenting the people around them regardless of privacy concerns. Youth are creating a digital identity that I hope they can grow out of and leave behind. I pray that we can change the norms and accept the person in front of us with the digital identity that has been cultivated and grown.