18 February 2011

You Could Be a Dog on the Internet

There was a piece on NPR the other morning about the difference between your Internet persona and the person you really are. In addition to places like Second Life, where you consciously create an avatar who may or may not be kind of like the real you, there are the tracks you can't help but leave behind in e-mail, IM, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and all the other kinds of e-communication that people use to form an image of what you must be like.

That got me thinking about what I must seem like to people who only know the e-me. What do you reckon? Dour? Sarcastic? Cynical? Not misleading, I'm afraid. That's the real me. Guilty, guilty, guilty.

I've had people tell me I seem shy. I am, a little, but I don't think that's what they're seeing. It's just that my mom always said, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." I frequently don't have anything nice to say. Similarly, I'm frequently rude, although that's not my intention. At least not usually. I'm just oblivious to the finer points of social interaction. I'm not great fun at a party.

So the e-me is pretty much the same as the real me, as unpleasant as that may sound. Or rather, it's the same as the real me used to be. On the Internet, my arms and legs work as well now as they ever did.

Although this blog is all about MS and disability (more than I would like, truth be told), elsewhere on the 'net I probably look pretty normal. Corresponding with people I haven't seen in person since before MS really started to kick my butt, it usually doesn't come up. In most contexts, having MS shouldn't matter. I wouldn't say I'm hiding behind my able-bodied Internet persona, exactly. It just doesn't come up.

As much as I like being able to preserve a part of my life where MS just doesn't come up, it can make meeting people in person kind of awkward.

There is a plan in the works to get together, real life in person, with a couple of people I used to work with. In fact, they were the reason I moved from Michigan to Seattle in 1995. They're both smart, talented, funny, well-read and widely-traveled. They make me feel kind of ignorant and hopelessly provincial. I like them a lot. They have both known I have MS for about as long as I have, but I haven't seen either of them in person for several years. When last we met, I was a lot more capable than I am now. Although we've kept in e-touch from time to time, my physical abilities, or lack of same, just didn't come up.

So when we meet, acknowledging the differences between my Internet persona and the real me will be kind of awkward, but we'll get past it, then Scarecrow will conduct a guided tour of our remodeling project. We'll catch up on the gossip at the places I used to work. Our dogs will convince them that whippets are unmannerly and disrespectful. We'll resolve to meet up again, which may or may not happen. It'll be fun.

Then I'll go back to being the e-me.


  1. The e-me and the real me are exactly the same...well okay... the e-me wears way too much make up ;)

  2. I don't mean to be a chameleon but I am somewhat in that different people bring out different aspects of me.

    I'm pretty sure my online persona doesn't necessarily jive with the complexity and totality of who I am. No intention at deceit, it's just that online outlets are rather limited in dimensions.

    From your online persona, I see dry wit humorizing situations by understating them -- maybe that's what you refer to as sarcasm. I don't pick up the other things you mentioned but I'll take your word that you're a dour rude woman ;)

  3. Well my e-me is probably much nicer than the real me. Not sure afraid to ask!
    I am socially inept. But I have good sense of humor most times.

    Sounds fun getting together with old friends. This is from a person who has never ever attended a reunion high school or otherwise LOL But it will be great - the dogs told me so.

  4. I'm not so very different from the real me, except my name of course. If I am Diane will set you straight, if she wants.

    I hope your get-together with past workmates goes well. They may be shocked, and wonder what to say, as "How are you?" and "What have you been up to lately?" don't seem proper. But you will set them straight, I know. With as much as you read you will have much to talk about.

    Sarcastic and cynical, I agree, but dour? Say it isn't so.

  5. I so know what you mean, but for me, it's "So what!" I may not express in my email, facebook, etc., the MS me, but I'm NOT that person. The real me is still there. I just have to navigate people's gazes past the disabled part and have them concentrate on the real me part. Hope you enjoy your visit!

  6. LOL, Webster is just like her e-her. All the bloggers I met in person were no different. I try to cover all of ME on my blog, FB, Twitter, I yam what I yam. I have only run across two bloggers who seemed phony and they disappeared eventually. Buyer beware. I bet it goes well with your old chums. Oh, and I LIKE who you are.