Reticence, Revelation And The Fact That The Internet Owns You

2010 September 22

So, I was discussing a piece I glanced over for a friend last night and I realized that the point she was making in her analysis was exactly what I was grappling with in terms of my own writing/social media presence/artfully constructed persona – where does performance end and unintended self revelation begin and just how much control do we have over that intersection? Paging James Franco, Lady Gaga and Joaquin Phoenix! The point further hit home when a Twitter friend assumed that a tweet about my applesauce-making woes was actually an emo metaphor for my life’s larger woes. If you read it in succession from the day’s earlier mini-missives, it was a logical enough conclusion. But really, it was just about apples. And I was a little surprised anyone was keeping tabs.

Photo by Youssef Hana

I try to walk the line (here and in other writing venues) between baring it all and being one of those insufferably coy types who only deal in passive-aggressive cliches. Too much disclosure is gauche and too much reticence is just tiresome cloak and dagger posturing that doesn’t exactly encourage trust. And this whole thing doesn’t work unless you believe that you can fall backward and that I’m gonna make damn sure you don’t hit the ground.

It’s the part of personal branding they don’t tell you about. There’s only so far your micro managing impulses can get you. As carefully as you structure your communications, choose your words and your images and your associates, you still can’t spoonfeed people your intended meaning. They get it, they don’t get it, they draw their own conclusions and their own picture of you. As soon as you gain an audience, you start to lose ownership. And anyone on the internet who tells you that this doesn’t frustrate them is a filthy liar.

There’s only so much you can write and reveal (be it a Facebook status or a link to your piece in the New Yorker), before you’re faced with this truth and the necessity of figuring out how you’re going to negotiate it – push past it to embrace words like “rawness” or “authenticity” or retreat to arms-length safety. I won’t presume to suggest what will work best for your individual circumstances, but  conventional wisdom (and Regis Philbin) would suggest that this might be a fine time to ask the audience.

After all, who knows you” better?

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