Friday, June 08, 2007

Blogging lapses and shifts in digital identity

I've been done with the school year for a week now. My internship doesn't kick off until next Friday, so I've been luxuriating in what feels like a vast expanse of free time. Directed by my whims, I've been walking around my neighborhood, watching great films (I highly recommend The Lives of Others), and spending leisurely swaths of time in local coffeeshops. As for the Wall St Journal that appears in my building lobby every morning -- I'm actually reading it now, rather than just glancing at it.

I've also been spending plenty of time in bed. That's where I'm at right now!

With all this free time, why the almost-month-long lapse in this blog? I've been following blogs for six years now, and the blogging lapse is a common phenomenon. Bloggers go on hiatus for a spell, and then invariably return with an apologetic post: life's been busy.

But I don't think this is why blogging lapses occur. Trust me, one can always find time to blog. :) Rather, I think it's a matter of uncertainty about how to go about constructing one's digital identity. Blogging allows people to build an online representation -- a Googleable self that is traceable by anyone around the world, presumably for a very long time to come. It's a pretty exciting opportunity, particularly for narcissists such as myself.

I've stepped back from blogging recently simply because I've been processing the changes I've gone through over the past year. As this round of processing comes to a close (I feel this happening soon), my blogging will kick off again. It's like an internal tectonic shift is going on. In a good way. Ok, perhaps not the best metaphor.

Along these lines of thought, check out this interesting article. It explores the question: what motivates Second Life users to select avatars that bear no resemblance to their real-life selves? Perhaps a better question is: when you have no limits on how you can appear in a virtual world, why pick an avatar that exactly resembles yourself (which is basically what I did in SL)?

As a recent WSJ article describes (subscription required, but you can see the video here), this really may be a generational issue. Today's teenagers and early-twentysomethings are much more comfortable with their digital selves than us older folks. We oldsters cautiously try and put our best face forward, whereas the younguns accept the very public nature of the internet and just express themselves.

An overgeneralization, to be sure, but it's clear that things are changing.



Jennifer said...

Well, I don't have gaps in my site....Amazingly. Posting leads to more posting which leads to you go it more posting.

Anyways, I wanted to Congratulate you on graduation. That is a huge deal and great job.

Jonathan said...

Thanks Jennifer! I won't actually graduate until next year, but it does feel good to be finished with my first year. :)

gillyflower said...

Congratulations on graduating!

I'd like to make the point that no one's SL avatar can look EXACTLY like their physical self. Esp. if you're like me and not really into programming or uploading textures. I know mine is very similar to me, but weighs less, never gets zits, and doesn't have that scar on my arm that I got when I tripped while carrying a bunch of glass containers out to the recycling bin a few years ago.

Plus, in real life, my hair is a phenomenon. AI doesn't know how to create hair like mine. Trust me.

I'd love to hang out on SL with you again sometime...

Vanessa said...

Great post on the "blogging lapses," very eloquent. I've been going through one.

I've wanted to see the Lives of Others for a while now. Saturday night home alone, why not?

Jonathan said...

Gillyflower -- I think that someday (sooner rather than later) it will be fairly easy to construct avatars that look remarkably similar to our physical selves. But you're right; we're not there yet.

Vanessa, thanks. :) I'm curious to hear what you think of it.