Several months ago, I started asking myself some serious questions about the way I manage my online identity. I wrote about some of the things I was considering in Online Identity Management.
You see, all of my life I have been cautioned–be careful what you put on the internet. No one will hire you if you they find that picture of you drinking or kidnapping a baby or eating a hobo or looking–god forbid–like a liberal or an iconoclast! Nothing is private, I have been told, and everything is used as a tool to judge fitness.
This worried me. I became concerned that there was no way I could establish myself as a professional computer scientist and design ethnographer while also giving myself the freedom that I need to establish myself as a writer. Further, it made me begin to think that I was somehow wrong or bad or broken, that my thoughts and work were so outrageous and innappropriate that I needed to conceal them from the world at large.
I fretted over this for a long time, and asked for advice from professionals in various industries. The general consensus was that I should play nice with the big kids, and lock down everything that could even possibly be construed as inappropriate or too personal. I felt sure that I was going to have to create a persona to write under.
And then Kate Saunderson offered this wisdom to me. She said, “If you are going to work for someone who would hate you as you are, then that’s a lifestyle decision. That’s you saying, ‘My work is all I am.’ And some people can do that. Some people can compartmentalize their lives that way. If you can’t, then that’s your decision made. “
And it was, in fact, my decision made. I am opting out of this mindset. I refuse to be made afraid. I will not hide simply because I have been told that I should do so. I will be the open book that I always hope to be–I am laying all of my cards on the table.
What does this mean? This means that I am drawing compartments in the ether of the internet. I am drawing a professional space, Rachel Shadoan Muses, and a personal space, Being Shadoan. My professional webspace will fit the standards of the general professional community. My personal webspace (within the bounds of law, ethics, and good sense) will not be censored for the comfort of the world at large. My personal webspace is the online equivalent of the table in my kitchen; you are welcomed into my home as a friend, and I will communicate with you as I would a friend. I would appreciate not being judged as a professional for the content in my personal webspace, but I recognize that it will likely happen anyway. I am just not going to live in fear of that happening.
Why am I playing it this way, when it appears to be so professionally risky? In the modern work world, you don’t work 9-5 and shut off when you go home. Design ethnographers in particular never seem to stop contemplating our work, networking for new participants, and mulling over strategies. So if my work is going to infilitrate my life as a person, then my person-ness should not have to be hidden from my work. Because at the end of the day, it is my humanity–the fact that I am a whole person with a rich array of experience, desire, and thought–that makes my work good.