Dissociative Social Media Identity

In order to be successful at networking online many of us have found it necessary to separate the various aspects of our personal and professional lives into separate online profiles. This is a natural reflection of technology mimicking life.

In life, we have different circles of friends. For example, we might have the friends we party with and occasionally date in one circle of friends, our family and church friends in another. We might have co-workers and colleagues in one circle and clients and prospects in another. If we’re into political activism or community service, we might have still another circle around those activities. This gets even more complicated as we get older, and begin to have friends and from different time periods in our lives. The friends we went to high school with might have a very different perspective of us than our former in-laws or our mid-life hobby club.

In our so-called “real life,” the only reason people from our family circle would normally be interacting with people from our client circle is if they have mutual interests with each other. In the early days of the web and social networking, many of us developed a whole new circle of friends — those who live in our computers! These people got to see an idealized version of ourselves that we recreated from scratch. That was all fun and games until the social networks started connecting our bosses, mothers-in-law, ex-spouses, potential clients, college sorority sisters, and current dating partners with each other. Our whole lives began to flash before our lives…all day, every day. And it was not pretty.

Yeah, yeah, I know some of the networks like Facebook and Google have tried to give us the illusion of keeping these groups of friends separate through gimmicks like the aptly named “circles,” and “lists.” But every time you sign up for any app or add a new feature, the entire network scans your entire contacts list — and they don’t care what amount of stress it causes you. Their priority is harvesting data for the benefit of the people who pay their rent — the advertisers.

What to do?

Well, one way to manage our communication and maintain our sanity is to develop separate online profiles for our different major networking groups. Maybe one for our business, one for friends and family, and one for dating.

Oh, and you need a separate one for politics, because let’s face it — no matter which side of the aisle you’re on, if you have any political opinions, you’re going to alienate half of your potential customers.

Wait, what if we’re in more than one business? People who are connecting with us fellow authors don’t want to read a bunch of posts about our specialized collectibles trading, so we’d better set up a separate profile for each of those.

Before you know it, you have several different online profiles — most of which overlap with your “real life” in one way or another. If we’re not careful, these networks will become separate voices in our heads, and create so much stress that we’re ready to just chuck the computer and go back to living off the grid.

Even if we finds ways to successfully manage the stress, this system of having multiple online personalities is changing the way we interact with people. Instead of developing relationships with real live human beings, we’re simply doing what guys used to do at parties — getting digits — collecting a bunch of phone numbers that we never intend to call. We’re creating easily-broken bonds based on surface traits may or may not be real. We’re surrounding ourselves with networks of people who affirm an image we created for ourselves, and blithely unfriending anyone who doesn’t follow-back.

We’ve lost our curiosity about the people in our lives, and replaced it with snap judgments about whether or not they are talking to the right voice in our head.

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