Web 2.0 Double Life – or: Wash me, but don’t make me wet

I proclaim: Each and everyone of us has one or another corpse in the basement. In my case: For a while, I have been considerably active in a Web 2.0 community, more precisely: on YouTube, but almost nobody from my real-life environment knew about it. Often enough, this is the desire of a lot of Web 2.0 contributors – but why is that?

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Let’s start at the very front: Why would somebody want to become active in Web 2.0 in the first place? Well, at some point one perhaps creates a YouTube account to be able to leave a comment under a video he just watched. This clearly indicates that YouTube has finally left its state of being just the „Funniest Home Video“ amusement provider – one might rather have seen a video with „real content“, so he would want to leave a personal response to its author.

A little later the webcam integrated into the laptop lid becomes rather tempting – suddenly the mere possibility seems to spread a little excitement: What if a comment could be placed not only in text form, but as well as a video response? Since so many others are able to put their daily annoyances and trivialities into words in front of a running camera, it shouldn’t be too hard to do it likewise.

The whole thing is more like a test of courage in front of nobody else but oneself. After mastering the technical difficulties, all of a sudden it just happens: One posts his first clip – a video log, or short: „vlog“. Awesome: 35 views – probably 10 of them resulting from one’s own unbelieving „Hey, I’m on the internet!“ test calls.

End of story – or not? Quite the contrary.

And that’s why: Who might have been those other 25 viewers who watched the video and partly even commented? So one interestedly follows the text comments to their authors, and afterwards to their videos as well. Thus starts the Web 2.0 immanent and inevitable community build-up: People start to discuss, they post video responses in turn – and in a blink of the eye one finds himself in the middle of a completely new circle of virtual friends, communicating publicly over the internet through short video clips.

So, now that’s end of story – or isn’t it? No, not at all.

At some point it becomes unavoidable to entrust the domestic partner with all this. Because it might be sort of traumatic to both of them if she would catch him unprepared in the act of videomaking. Admittedly, this test of courage is an even bigger step to take: What might the significant other respond when one tells her that he has made a bunch of new virtual friends on YouTube – and that on top of that he is posting his own face in living pictures over there as well? Luckily, soon enough puzzled astonishment turns into extensive whateverism, with a tolerable dash of concern about the sphere of privacy.

During this phase, the Web 2.0 member is already living a double life. The confession towards the spouse was already a difficult coming out. But the whole rest of the friends and family does not yet know just anything about it – not to mention the employer and the dear co-workers. Certainly, one is not doing anything illegitimate at all, but nonetheless … What would all those people think if they knew that one’s new hobby is about publishing nonchalant speeches allegedly anonymously on the internet?

„Anonymous“ is the crucial clue here. One believes himself in anonymity. But compared to an unpretentious text blog like this one, that kind of televisual performance including gesticulation, facial expression, slips of tongue, dramatic pauses, and whatnot creates a totally different kind of media presence. Even hard-boiled „Look at me!“ representatives might feel a little bit uneasy about the notion of being „spotted“ unexepectedly – in other words: to be greeted by a real-life acquaintance with the words: „Hey, I saw your video on YouTube.“

As a result of this, one enmeshes himself deeper and deeper inside his self-chosen schizophrenia. On one hand the real-life friends and family, on the other hand the ever-growing Web 2.0 environment. The virtual existence revolves about increasing numbers of subscribers, views, and friends – one is thirsting for more and more Web 2.0 publicity. But at the same time he is trying to protect his anonymity towards real-life. In other words: One acts along the lines of „Wash me, but don’t make me wet“. Consequently, the risk increases on a daily basis that both realities might converge in the worst of all moments – with completely unpredictable consequences.

Obviously, this is a deadlock. One could either remain paralyzed and gaze at the approaching snake like a rabbit – in other words: wait until the catastrophe eventually happens. Or, one could prevent such an involuntary outing from happening by a self-implemented, profound and public coming-out. But does one really want whosoever to burrow deep inside all those old publications, bringing to light one of those perhaps less than impeccable video messages completely out of context – that was jovially posted a year and a day ago from within the false illusion of anonymity?

I chose to take a different approach: A reboot, if you will. I reduced my Web 2.0 activities more or less to zero at one single dash. After a little distance of time I carried my old, anonymous virtual existence to its grave: All former contributions from YouTube and other portals were removed to the best of my abilities, those old accounts were deleted. Afterwards, I waited for the dust to settle: I gave Web 2.0 a fairly long time to forget about me, ie. about my former Alter Ego.

Now starts my new virtual life – one that does not try to hide anonymously from real life anymore. For example on Facebook, I have connected with real-life friends, colleagues, and some of my former Web 2.0 buddies – up to now, the greatly feared matter/anti-matter explosion failed to occur. My Web 2.0 activities on YouTube et cetera will from now on take place no more pseudo-anonymously, but they will be revealed to anybody who wants to know about them – especially as well to real-life acquaintances.

But note: As experience teaches – a medium that provides a facility to an ever-growing circle of people to publish content, this kind of mass publication does not necessarily lead to a corresponding group of other people who are actually interested in that content. Rest assured, I do not believe that the annoyances and trivialities of my life that I share as blogs or vlogs are actually pulitzer or webby award material.

Nevertheless: All of my new Web 2.0 contributions will from now on be measured against the inofficial yardstick – the one that everybody should actually keep in mind who plans to post a piece of himself on the internet: „Don’t publish anything that you could not stand seeing unexpectely larger-than-life on a billboard at a busy place.“

2 Kommentare.

  1. I think anonymity is a fragment of web history that harps back to the time when everyone thought the web was insecure, dangerous, nerdy and a fleeting opportunity to ‚be someone different‘.

    Stupid thoughts looking back at it now, hey?

    People are having a hard time trying to shake that history off. For as long as we are someone else, we can flex the truth, exaggerate our strengths, hide our weaknesses, over emphasis our social stature safe in the knowledge that the come back will be close to zero… and nothing that signing back in with a different username wouldn’t cure.

    Oh how those days have gone!

    I too had multiple accounts and identities all over the web for years, until I realised how pathetic I was behaving… and I wasn’t doing anything wrong with those identities, I was just caught up in the same ‚historical‘ flashbacks of ‚protect yourself online‘ messages being thrown around like anyone cared.

    The truth being, my life was actually waaaay too dull for anyone to really be interested in.

    Once I shook off the pseudonyms, life suddenly got easy. All the account switching, conversational overlaps and separation of virtual friends went out the window… actually the virtual friends just got dumped altogether – they were only useful to me as long as that pseudonym existed.

    Today, I’m interested in how people in business (and the owners specifically) have to keep identities separate for strategic reason & ensuring that conflicts of interests do not overlap.

    When we do things for personal reasons, any ‚exposure‘ are merely ripples of embarrassment perhaps, but for business, those ripples can be financial and have a real impact on other peoples financial lives.

    I’m keen to hear and discuss if there is a way to be social, completely, honestly and transparently and still function in differing areas of business and industry where this schizo-social identity can manifest easily and almost appear essential.

    I’m thinking is it just an echo left over from the bad old days of Internet and business activity, whereby decisions are made without consideration for anything other than the benefits of the business and its operations? If that is so, then I hope I’m offering a different perspective to businesses I meet and speak to about effective social media usage.

    I see no real way one can be truly social… and keep split identities without the risk of exposure in some way. And even if one could, and could justify that approach, I fear the reasons for doing so would be unethical and lead to further decisions whereby one could escape accountability for ones actions.

    I’d be interested to hear what other people think on the subject matter.

    great post – Mark