I was inspired to write this by a moment that happened to me last week. I expected there to be some kind of confetti, and at the very least a fanfare of sorts, but in the end it was very anti-climatic. The moment was for the first time having over 1000 listens of a band on last fm, the band was Radiohead, the landmark song was No Surprises. In real life terms my listen count for Radiohead is many many times greater than that, having only signed up to last fm in early 2007. However, I realised that if my music tastes had been recorded from birth a very different picture would be produced of my life. This led me to the question “How much of my life is online?” and “Does it represent who I am?”
As a result of this I engaged in a spot of online self-stalking, not out of a desire to find out how lax I have been security wise, but to answer these questions and to see if I could create an on-line autobigraphical scrap book of sorts. This gave me a dilemma, in the inter-tangled spiders web that is…well the web, where do you begin? I first became an online-savy person at the age of 11 when I got my first computer, did I contribute any information about myself to the internet? From my searching and recollections I believe not. At that time my use for the internet was mainly games and music. If there is any record of my on-line self out there it is most likely to be what my favourite Pokemon was and a starving NeoPet who hasn’t been fed for 10 years!
The first record that I can find of me is at the age of 15 on IMDB, arguing with people about films on a message board. Whilst I probably come across as really geeky, I cant argue that being opinionated about films is a bad representation of who I am! After that I am all over the place, a list of 16 year old me’s goals on 43things.com, a youtube channel with very low tech attempts at making short films (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBNuV9Z2QpA), a second life character and many other things. Whilst my list of life goals has changed, I no longer attempt to create horror films involving my ingestion by an alarm clock and I am not 7 foot tall with green skin (a thank you to a certain friend there for hacking my second life account) I don’t view these as a poor representation of who I am. I still have a big long list of life goals on my wall and I enjoy stupid spontaneous creative projects as much as I ever have.
Where the online existence of me really kicks into gear is the social networks, at one time or another I have given most of them a try. I have, or have had myspace, bebo, facebook, flickster and twitter (with a few more thrown in for good luck). A couple of years ago I deleted my myspace and bebo accounts, for which I am quite thankful for, as the sport of hunting for old profiles of freinds to embarrass them is fun and usually quite successful. If I remember correctly they were full of the usual pretentious teenage waffling and I am glad that they have been erased from history.
Unsurprisingly it is facebook where my online life really resides, a member since Dec 2006 there are 1,261 photos, 10 videos and a whole list of what my music, film, book and book tastes are. Does this represent who I am? Probably, although of course it is cherry picked information. Photos have been detagged, statuses carefully considered but I do not think these any different from the decisions I make about how I put myself across in real life.
So while I would like to be able to say that there is definitely more to me that what the internet says, the truth is that it is remarkably accurate. However, as I grow older and (potentially) more sensible this leaves me a dilemma. Do I update what there is to match who I have become, or do I leave it and face the question from hypothetical future grandchildren “Why are there photos of you dressed as a mole drinking absinthe on the internet?
This video I think sums up the whole dilemma much more succinctly than I could: