Online persona v. offline persona, or, blogging about…uh, blogging, among other things

So here it is Friday, lunchtimeish, and as usual I’m burning up massive amounts of time scouring through my accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Verla Kay’s blueboards, etc, and I got to thinking about this idea of establishing an online presence that we aspiring kidlit authors get so much advice about. I think it was Michael Stearns who tweeted during #kidlitchat or #yalitchat or one or the other of those Twitter #litchat things about understanding that an online persona is just that – a persona. As in, a character, a perceived image, a public personality.

Whaddayasay, minions, do I, your humble bloggy wogger, have a persona as far as you can tell? That is to say, a public personality that is separate or different from my private personality? The evidence seems to say YES, if I’m reading it correctly. Right, of course – those of you who haven’t met me in person haven’t had the opportunity to develop an opinion about this. Those of you who have rubbed elbows with me in the analog world may have noticed, however.

I have a friend who I knew before ever getting mixed up in this social media stuff, and she later became a Facebook friend as well. More than once she’s said something to the effect of “In person you’re so reserved, but on your Facebook page you’re so funny! It’s very interesting, Mike.” Then there’s the other friend who I got to know online first and later met in person, and he made a similar comment about my laconic, Eastwoodesque, mysterious-stranger vibe in person.

In a related but somewhat different vein, I once tweeted about being a big fan of Shrinking Violet Promotions, and another of them online buddies said “Mike Jung, introvert? WHOA,” and likened my Twitter presence to that of a Tasmanian devil (which I take as a very high compliment, just FYI). Then there’s this blog, of course, where I’ve only really posted contests and reviews before, but will no doubt blather on and on about all kinds of random stuff in the future.

Now I can’t speak for anyone else who may possess this kind of dichotomy with their “real” and “virtual” selves, although I am sometimes curious to know what goes on in people’s minds with regard to intent, strategy, etc. Speaking for myself, however, I don’t think there’s any kind of artifice or deliberation at play. Of course there’s always the possibility that things are happening down in the deep, dark, reptilian crevices of my brain cavity without my conscious knowledge, despite my constant attempts to live a lifestyle that’s self-examined to a nearly psychotic degree. But if you put a gun to my head and demanded an honest answer, I’d have to say that I’m not so much trying to project an image, you know? An image that’s different from who I truly am, that is.

I am a writer, after all, which means I’m sometimes a little…strange. Rich internal life, high level of introspection, propensity to examine things from every conceivable angle, yeah, I’ve got all that stuff.  So perhaps the way this so-called online persona thing works (for me, anyway), is that it’s not a way to project a deliberately constructed external persona. Instead, maybe it’s a way to project the internal persona that’s been there all along.



17 thoughts on “Online persona v. offline persona, or, blogging about…uh, blogging, among other things

  1. Interesting stuff. I’ve had the opposite experience — not so much with current blog, but back in the college I had ElJay and met a bunch of people thataway. And a bunch of them told me that the way I wrote there and wrote emails basically sounded exactly like I do in conversation. I think that’s less true now that I take more care with my online persona, on acount of being a grown up who has bosses to please (or at least not embarrass) and such, but I’ve always been pretty close between online and offline personas.

    Then again, perhaps I am simply maintaing a very complex persona in real life, too. Mwahahaha.

    1. I am entirely confident that you maintain a complex persona in real life, actually, and I mean that in a good way.

  2. >>>
    maybe it’s a way to project the internal persona that’s been there all along.

    Exactly. The people that know me best say my online persona is exactly the way I am in real life. They know it's the real me. But most of my acquaintances don't know the real me. We just don't have the time to go that deep with everyone.

    1. Yeah, I think that’s true for me too, Sally. I DO possess a certain amount of initial reserve, and not everybody gets past it.

  3. “It’s very interesting, Mike.”

    Heh-heh. Called out.

    I try to make my online persona as open and goofy as I am around my husband. It’s a deliberate choice because, normally, in a large group of people I skirt the edges, watching and listening (in a totally non-creepy way. Usually.). I feel I should challenge my comfort zone more. So I use online social networking to learn in-person skills. (Like #hashtags!)

    I’ll be interested to see what others say, and how the introverts/extroverts tally up.

    1. I was TOTALLY called out. 🙂 I think I do a similar thing as you, where my unguarded self (which my wife and daughter see more than anyone else) comes out more easily online than it does elsewhere, particularly in group settings. Watching and listening, yep – I know the feeling.

    1. I think my writing voice is much more like my online voice, although my online voice is also my real voice – in some ways it surfaces more quickly when I’m writing (as opposed to talking, when it takes longer).

  4. In person, I remember you did come across as somewhat reserved at first. However, your online persona closely matches your in-person persona once you have gotten used to someone. You project a sort of funky, sometimes sarcastic eloquence readily apparent in your writings, but which most people won’t see until you’ve gotten to know them better.

  5. I think that my online persona is, pathetically, very much like my meat-body persona. As for the persona you project on line: I read you as generous, energetic, self-deprecating… Eastwood in “Two Mules for Sister Sarah” but not so much Eastwood as Harry Callahan.

    1. Well that is very kind, Blythe, thanks, although I don’t know, there might be a little Harry Callahan in there too… 😉

  6. Hi Mike,
    I am a YA writer, and I came upon your blog through your and my friend Tara’s review of “When You Reach Me.” I am absolutely loving what I found here. You are definitely projecting a persona that is very very cool – and if you aren’t working at it, so much the better. I too have just started a blog (which is this obscure thing, not even close to your level of coolness), so your question is interesting. I am still trying to figure it out, but it seems blogging helps me find what the hell kind of a persona I even am in the first place. (Online – and offline!) Almost like a journal – which may not be the best thing for a blog, but that’s the way it feels sometimes.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    1. Nice to meet you Katia – so to speak – and thanks for the kind words! It is an interesting process, isn’t it? Each of these tools for online communication feels like a distinct kind of exercise in using the written word.

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