Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cyberselves

"We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate."

Thoreau


Just in the past day I've come across three reminders of how Internet activity has increasingly become an assumed aspect of personal identity, for better or worse (when it makes news, it's usually for the worse). In two local stories, teachers in Charlotte were disciplined for making derogatory remarks about students on Facebook, while an investigation is under way to determine whether Durham police officers made slurs against Barack Obama on Myspace pages. Of course, these individuals did not take precautions to shield their comments from general viewing; it reminds me of people listening to headphones who speak at obliviously high volume.

Nationally, the unprecedented scrutiny of potential applicants to higher level jobs in the Obama administration includes documentation of any and all past Internet activity, including "handles" or alter egos employed. (I'm withdrawing my application for Surgeon General in protest; a psychiatrist as Surgeon General--can you imagine?). This offers a useful reminder that anonymity on the Web is never absolute.

It makes me wonder--should this blog be mentioned on my CV? Is it a public sort of hobby, or quasi-professional, or a hybrid? When I decided a while back to link my name to the site, I determined not to write anything that I would not, in principle, be willing to see printed in the local paper. And in the work I currently do, this sort of thing is not likely to come up much with patients. But if I were to be in private practice at any time in the future, I wonder how my approach to the issue might change, and whether I would notify patients ahead of time of blogging activities or just deal with it as it might come up.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

The story about the Charlotte teachers on Facebook made the national news; we saw the story yesterday in Ohio.

I've been posting to the internet (in the past mostly to Usenet) since approximately 1999. At the time, I wasn't aware the posts were archived, nor that someone could out your real name and post lies about you nor, strangely, work you into some huge delusional conspiracy theory (which is something I'm doing damage control on now).

I hope any prospective employers who decide to Google my name have enough common sense to realize how ridiculous most of the accusations are, because there appears to be no way of removing the archived posts, except possibly by court order. I can't afford to hire a lawyer for that purpose.

You seem to choose your words carefully, which is wise. Don't post any sensitive personal information about yourself anywhere, and don't engage in flame wars with vindictive people.

What I learned.

Anonymous said...

Everyone harbours multiple selves. Sometimes they bleed into each other as though in dialogue; other times they are distinct and separate entities in monologue with themselves, and completely inconsequential to the other selves.

Each self should be allowed to exist on its own terms without interference from the others if they are mutually irrelevant and the occasion permits.

We're not obligated to have a static demeanour and personality without modification as required per situation and social context; so why should we treat each aspect of our identity as part of a single entity that necessarily must have repercussions in our piecemeal lives?

I think we can healthily compartmentalise our lives- it's necessary to live successfully and happily.

The part does not always reflect the whole so let weird fetishes and suchlike lie.

Ben Wright said...

From the point of view of an employer (like the Durham Police Dept.), social networking is tricky. On the one hand, sites like Myspace promote camaraderie. On the other hand, they can foster perceived abuse, which the employer needs to block. --Ben