Like many ideas in my brain these days, it began with a tweet.
Do you have an "online" reputation? What is it? Do you know? Do you know mine?
It was a Lifehacker post which prompted these questions from The Queen of Spain (BlogHer CE Erin Kotecki Vest). Several people forwarded their impressions of themselves and of Erin. Erin offered her observations back. And the banter got me thinking about what I would want my reputation to be, how that differs from how others see me and how that reputation has evolved over time.
My response to Erin's question "Do you know mine?" was: yours - queen of stuff? (and that's a good thing) shit stirrer? bad ass mommy blogger?
Erin responded: queen of stuff works. kinda. I can't do others, it's too hard. I'd say...maria niles is expert on all things, defer to her. lol
I replied: I'd rather my rep be "loves everyone and hugs inappropriately - just accept it" but I suppose you don't determine your own rep
And then my brain wheels really started turning.
Why did I recoil from of me as "expert on all things, defer to her?" I mean, doesn't that sound like an awesome commandment? I've always been insanely curious. I began to read at age 4 and at 5 attempted to read my way through the encyclopedia, I'm told. My random reading across subjects continues to this day and I eagerly jump into conversations on the many topics about which I know a little. As a kid, this tendency to share caused my classmates to brand me a "know-it-all." And it always made me sad that my eagerness for knowledge and conversation made people think I thought I was better or smarter than them. Trust me, I was just as overwhelmingly shy and insecure as any young girl - talking about things I'd read was a way to get my nose out of a book, bring me out of my shell and allow me to connect with other people. Thus, the idea that I'm expert on all things and that people should defer to me made me uncomfortable.
I know that Erin meant that description as a high compliment and did not offer it in a derogatory spirit. And I could choose to own that perception. But I thought more about that pithy, spontaneous description I offered back and decided to attempt to write a twitter bio (you can write a one-line, 160 character bio for your profile there). Arse Poetica offered "badass" as a word for my description so I added it. Then I incorporated my spontaneous response and tweaked Erin's description to one that felt more comfortable for me. The result is:
Badass. Loves everyone, hugs inappropriately. Curious, opinionated & likes to share.
Another aspect of the article that sparked Erin's questions was the idea of having an "online" reputation and how you manage that. That prompted responses to Erin about how and if online and offline reputations varied. Most who responded to Erin and to whom Erin responded back concluded that for this non-scientific sample, online and offline reputations are the same. Except for Nancy White who apparently has a reputation for being taller offline. (I would link you to a sampling of some of the amazing responses Erin received but twitter is down once again as I write this.)
I have no idea if my online and offline reputations differ. I know that I do not make any effort to separate them. Certainly there are things some people who know me in real life know and there are things we discuss that I would never share or discuss online. But I use my government name online and don't try to censor myself out of fear. To do otherwise and attempt to manage multiple identities is just too exhausting to contemplate.
What are BlogHers saying about reputations online and off?
I totally think we go too far sometimes with trying to create online persona’s that are nothing like what we do in real life and the coolest thing about the internet is that even if we never meet, you and I could really get to know each other.
Whenever we remove our mask and people see the real us, there’s a risk. How much of yourself are you willing to reveal? Is it important to doing business online?
What do you think? Does someone’s choices in their personal life alter your opinion of their business services?
Would you have the courage to stand up and defend a cause you believe in, and bring attention to it in your web site or blog if you could, even though it has nothing to do with your business, products or services?
I went through a lot of hurt before my perception of me and my assumptions about what others must be thinking of me, changed. Sometime I’ll go into more detail. But for now, I’ve realized that being comfortable around others, starts with being comfortable with myself.
Why do I tell you all this? Maybe it is to change people’s perception of welfare recipients. Maybe it is to change your perception of me.
Fear inhibits honesty. I was afraid of what you might think of me so I painted a picture of myself and hoped you would not notice that I was telling an incomplete story. I showed you our BMW’s; I talked about our big house; I flaunted my nice things to distract you from some experiences that shaped me. I was ashamed of those experiences, but I am not ashamed of who I am.
I am compassionate, empathetic and nonjudgmental. Life has beaten me up, spit me out and taught me that I could have been a homeless person, an unwed mother, or an insufferable snob. I was fat, skinny, rich, poor, employed, fired and in therapy. I am a Christian who lived in sin. I am a shy extrovert. I am a contradiction.
I still fear what you will think of me after reading this, but take comfort in knowing that your picture of me is complete.
I'm a lot more laid back than I ever have been. poliphilo gave me permission right back when we first met to be myself and after 17 years I think I'm finding out who 'myself' can be. Yet, 'myself' is constantly changing.
I expect that everyone changes, but I believed - was brought up to believe - that it wasn't allowed. I spent so many years fitting into the mould my parent's gave me. Trying to be their perception of me, that it's no wonder I was so uptight. I was supposed to be a problem, a dunce, never amounting to anything, unlovable, always letting people down. I think that when poliphilo threw my mother out of the house for telling him this, I learnt that his perception was different. It has taken me another 10 years to learn that everyone's perception of me is different again, and that my perception of others - and myself - is just that, my perception.
Wouldn't we all like to/dread to know what others perceive of us? I'd be thrilled with the good and offended at the bad I'm sure. Maybe we better keep that a secret for now. Then again, truth may lie somewhere between your perception of me and my own. I have accomplished some pretty cool things fueled only on what other people told me I could do, with no confidence in my own abilities.
Only God knows what lies beneath, waiting to glorify or destroy. In balance, your perceptions of me might keep me in check or inspire me forward. My own perceptions tell me what to change and allow me to celebrate my life. Finally, God has no perceptions, only truth. And the truth frees me.
John 8:32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
And I'll leave you with a version of Erin's questions:
Do you have a reputation?
Do you have an "online" reputation?
Are they different?
Do you know?
Do you know mine?
What would your 160 character bio say?
More from living