The Fragmented Self Online

Did you ever feel like you’re being pulled around several different directions and can’t keep track of things? Don’t feel too bad- if you’ve spent any time online, then you’re going through this same problem as millions of others. We’re putting pieces of ourselves all over the web now and it’s getting confusing to keep up with it.

Other than this blog, I’ve been thinking about everywhere else that I’ve been leaving my mark online. Along with my zine, I’ve also set up little outposts in a number of social networking spaces which include, but definitely ain’t limited to…

(NOTE: You might have to sign up for accounts at these services to see any of these pages)

Ye Wei (aka my other blog where I talk about particular albums)

Twitter, where I find myself ‘tweeting’ more and more often

MySpace, where I set up a place for my zine

Facebook, which was my previous fave until I got hooked on Twitter (more about that in another post)

Going, which I find both interesting and confusing as a social space

Last FM, which tracks what I’m listening to

Linked In, where I’m supposed to make business contacts

Goodreads, where I list my favorite books and find other bookworms

In addition, there’s a bunch of services that I haven’t had time to check out yet, including Bebo, Fark, Ponce, Plaxo and…

One problem is that I’m probably signed up at other places but I can’t remember them right now. Another problem is that I can’t always remember to go back to all of those places above to update them or just to poke around to find friends or find some info. It gets confusing after a while to keep track of all of this. Don’t get me wrong- I do like visiting each of these sites when I can remember it. But then comes another problem- when are you going to find time to visit all your social destinations? And what are you going to do when new ones inevitably come up? You’ll want to go to those places and have to let some of your old favorites languish- for me that’s been MySpace, where I still go to regularly but nowhere nearly as much as I used to.

Isn’t that the same for all of us online addicts? We love to explore online but we can get tangled up in this stuff too. I usually keep a set of bookmarks to help me remember these sites but it’s still time consuming and sometimes, I’ll go weeks without visiting some of them, not because I’m bored of them but just because I’m busy at the other sites.

What I also wonder about is what we say about ourselves on these sites and what it adds up to. I don’t have the same exact info about myself, my tastes and my interests on all of the social sites (it would look bad if you did, right?) though some of them definitely overlap. So you basically spend time constructing these versions of your life on these sites, highlighting some things that you’re proud of and usually skipping over the embarrassing stuff. Even if you’re registered with dozens of site, it’s still an incomplete and selective version of who you are.

Plus there’s your ‘friends’ at each of these places- some of them are definitely friends but you know… there’s others who just meet you there and might share some interests and maybe know you through someone else but they’re not someone you’d regularly hang out with otherwise or correspond with. Also, whether we want to admit it or not, it becomes kind of a status symbol to say that you have lots of friends on these services- we collect them like we collect books or music or other objects that say who we are and what we’re about.

So we futilely try to balance all of these persona that we’ve created while we look for friends, interests and info. What we’re like offline though, outside of these idealized versions of ourselves is another story…