I’ve sat down to write this post several times now. Each time it’s been slightly different, with a slightly different focus, but ultimately the same thing has happened – I couldn’t finish it.
Even now, as I’m sat in my comfy desk chair in the dead of night unable to sleep, I’m thinking that there’s no point in continuing to write this.
But at the same time, I want to want to write it.
It’s been some time since I last blogged, so this going to need some back-story.
Just before Christmas I was loving social media. Really enjoying it, I had a lot of conversations going, Twitter was always a source of friendship, information and fun. I was blogging regularly, I had plans to keep blogging, and I was enjoying myself doing it.
Then it got to Christmas time. I went home from university, saw relatives, went away and generally was away from the Internet; away from the online community I’d recently enjoyed being a part of.
When I came back I found that it was hard to get tweeting again. It was like I’d broken a habit, and I couldn’t get back into it. So I thought I would blog about it, maybe explore what my month of near Twitter-silence had done to my relationships, both online and offline.
That was the first time that I sat down to write this blog post. I’d found that being offline hadn’t drastically enriched my offline relationships, as I wasn’t always online, but my online relationships – that sense of community online – had suffered drastically.
I felt a stranger to my fellow Tweeters.
This is where I realised a big difference in online and offline communities.
Offline, people notice when you leave. If you go away or don’t show up to work or uni for a month – people would notice! As Christians we know that churches strive to notice when people aren’t turning up anymore, so that we can find out why.
Online, it doesn’t happen like that. The drop-in nature of social media means that it’s hard to keep track of people. Whereas you might get a call from a friend asking where you’ve been recently offline, online you’re unlikely to be dropped a tweet from someone who hasn’t seen you tweet in a while.
I really don’t like this.
I get that the web is impersonal and the rest of it, I’ve blogged on it enough. What I don’t like is the way that the impersonal nature of the web can come across as uncaring.
As a Christian, I like to think that a collection of Christians together makes a church. So therefore, at least in my mind, the large group of Christians who interact regularly online are a kind of Twitter-church, right?
If we acted in this online church like we did in our physical churches each Sunday then we would have so many friends! In church we greet each new person with enthusiasm and warmth, and strive to make them feel as though they are welcome and are of worth in the community. If we found some way to do this online, wouldn’t it just be awesome? And on the plus side, we have that drop-in nature, and the 24/7-ness of the web on our side! It would be like being surrounded by your church family whenever you need to be.
I have no idea if anything like this is logistically possible, but I hope that we can find a way to make Twitter a huge, caring and warm church.
Reading back through this now I realise that it incredibly poorly written and has no real structure or direction. Normally this would eat at me, but today I’m going to let it slide. This was just written as I thought it, my thoughts straight to paper. Or pixels.
I was going to have an explore about the authenticity of online friendships, but I think that will have to be for next time.
I hope that this post, whilst disorganised and dysfunctional gives you some pause for thought.
Recently I was shown this video from Greg Benson of MediocreFilms on YouTube.
It’s a great video, and I do recommend that you check out the rest of his videos over on his YouTube channel. If you’re someone who is sensitive about foul language though be warned, not all of his videos are as peachy-clean as the one above, although a lot are!
Watching this video made me incredibly aware of the amount of information that we put out online, and that we don’t necessarily know who can actually see that information. I’m pretty sure that it made you think about it too. Apart from being humorous, I’d guess that’s one of the intentions of the video.
The amount of information that we put online is staggering. Our names, addresses, pictures, videos, holiday destinations, birthdays, last night’s dinner… The list is nearly endless. What’s worrying about this is that according to the eConsultancy, only 46% of UK Internet consumers consider privacy an important issue that they consider regularly. Also, that a high percentage of people think that the government, or website owners, are responsible for regulating their own online security – rather than themselves. (Source: eConsultancy Blog)
With social media growing, we are finding more and more ways to share our lives and also creating more forums in which to share. Obviously being safe online is important, particularly when it comes to card details etc etc etc… But our payment details aren’t the only thing that we need to watch out for, and the video above really highlights this.
Do you follow any pages on Facebook that could access your details like this? That could find out where you live and turn up to your house? Know where you have been on holiday? Know the names of your children? (If applicable, of course) It’s worth thinking about.
Here’s another question though: do measures to keep our information safe and private online affect our authenticity in the digital space?
It comes down – again – to the idea of a ‘photoshopped-self’ online (Thanks to @pmphillips for informing me of this term). By cutting bits out online, we are editing the material that represents us; therefore affecting the possible ways in which we might be viewed by others.
We are changing what people can think of us at conception, therefore restricting the way they that we can be viewed at consumption.
The way I see it, everything that we do online changes the way that we are received, and so editing what can or cannot be seen will definitely influence our online authenticity. It seems to me that there is a balance to be found.
How much do we hold back, and for what reasons? Could this information compromise your safety? Or is it just going to compromise your image?
There’s also etiquette to consider here – could what I’m about to say be seen as spiteful, mean or nasty? Might be best not to put it out there.
Recently I’ve started to think this before I tweet:
- If I am replying to someone, I think – ‘Would I say this to this person in a face to face conversation?’
- If I am tweeting in general I think – ‘Would I say this in front of a crowd?’ (Assuming I wasn’t terrified of speaking in front of groups, of course).
- And finally, I take a minute to look at how it could be read and try my best to see if it could be taken the wrong way.
That’s just what I do. Anyway, I’m sorry again for the lack of definite answers to anything here, but I’m not sure there ever will be any. I hope you enjoyed mulling this over with me.
What do you think?
- How conscious are you of the information that you put online? Do you know who can see what?
- In what ways do you try to be authentic online?
- Any ‘Twittiquette’ tips to share?
I would love to see your comments!
So the Christian New Media Awards and Conference just happened. For anyone not aware of this event, it’s about equipping the church in this digital age, and teaches it’s delegates how to make the most of technology and social media as Christians.
I’ve come away from the day not only shattered, but inspired. I attended the conference as a volunteer, and therefore didn’t manage to listen to most of the talks – so the inspiration for this blog on authenticity online actually comes from me physically being a volunteer.
Being a volunteer was hard for me. It really pushed me and stretched my limits. What was it that I was doing that was such a challenge? Interacting with people.
To get to the point I’m going to have to explain myself to you a little bit. I am not a confident person, and I’m not a terribly good people person. I’m introverted. I like video games and listening to music with huge headphones so that I can block everyone out.
So when we were asked as to man the registration desk and be human sign-posts for the day, I was… apprehensious. Particularly when we were asked to be ‘positive, outgoing, smiley and helpful’.
Not my thing.
But yet I persevered and if I’m honest I am quite proud of myself for it – I think that it was a push I needed.
How does this relate to being authentic online? Well as far as I’m aware, online I’m not like that. Online I can be more outgoing and open, more confident. Heck, online I can even manage ”public speaking” through my blog.
You’d never catch me doing that in person.
Online I am thrilled to be making contact with people and meeting strangers, whereas in person I find the idea of speaking to strangers terrifying. Particularly a group of them!
What I’ve realised is that in terms of typical online authenticity – I am not authentic. Sorry. You’re reading fake words right now, I hope that doesn’t disappoint you.
This is where I begin to get confused. Because despite what you just read, this isn’t fake. It’s real, it’s my thoughts put into my words.
Does the fact that I probably would find it difficult to say this to you in person (particularly all of you at once!) make my words have any less weight, or authenticity? NO!
So if online me is still authentic, but not the same, what does that mean?
In another blog post I brought up the idea that ‘online versions’ of ourselves could be MORE authentic than our offline personas. I would really like to be more outgoing and confident, and online I am. Does that make it a truer representation of me? It’s the me I can’t bring myself to be offline, a look at the inner me?
I have no answers – sorry. I guess that another way to look at it would be to say that – as long as there is no intentional deception – we’re authentic everywhere. It’s just that we can express ourselves differently through different mediums.
TL;DR, I have no answers on online authenticity for you. Do you have some for me?
So I thought I’d try this out.
Having a blog with quite a precise focus this could be difficult, but for at least this week I’ll face the challenge! Here goes!
The truth is something that can avoid us online. There are so many ways to decieve and trick, in terms of identity and otherwise.
Some thrive on the anonymity of the web, concealing who they are they feel that there are no consequences to their actions. Trolls, are basically who I am talking about.
There have been some pretty nasty incidents online regarding trolls recently. The problem is that no-one really knows what to do about it, should internet access be cut? Comments sections abandoned?
It’s a shame that the trolls are out there, because they often ruin what could be a perfectly happy system of communication.
I don’t really know where I’m going with this, I think that really it just makes me sad to see what people are doing online, and to also know that it is mostly my generation doing it.
Personally I think that the best thing to do is to ignore them, not to taunt or annoy. If you do that, then surely you are no better?
I think that’s what I’m trying to get at here, that we should all try to be considerate online, and to really try to act as if we’re talking to real people – because we are.
Please take the time to look at Lisa-Jo Baker’s site, the thinker-upper of Five Minute Fridays, found here.
So I’ve been at Spring Harvest the past few days, and for the next few days to come. It’s been great, awesome worship and brilliant speakers.
That was a lot of positive adjectives.
The highlight so far has been the Click Zone, run by Bex Lewis.
It almost seemed too good to be true – a click zone, a zone focused on the discussion of technology and social media in relation to faith – a zone that fits in exactly with this blog?
Luckily it is more than a mirage and indeed a reality, and so I’m going to take the chance to blog about the topics we’ve discussed. Or some of them. We’ll see how many I squeeze in.
First up – online authenticity.
This blog isn’t going to hold any answers, advice or any similarly useful bits. It will just be some of my musings on the topic, influenced by what we’ve heard here at Spring Harvest.
Being authentic online is difficult. After-all, how authentic are we offline? And what does it mean to be authentic?
I would think that most people would describe being authentic as acting the same as we would do in person, offline.
But from what do we judge our authenticity?
Some people look out-wards when creating their online personas, trying to be as others wish them to be, or to fill a social gap. Is this authentic? No, it’s not really a person being themselves, is it?
I guess it could be seen as authentic, in a way. If a person is the type who automatically adjusts themselves depending on social situations, then this kind of behaviour is natural for them. It is authentic.
So it could be said that people can be authentically false… Great. This isn’t confusing at all.
Other people seem to do the opposite, they try too hard to be themselves.
The truth is that we don’t really know ourselves completely, so when people look inward to try and be authentic online, they end up acting how they think they act, which may or may not be true.
So now by trying to be yourself you might end up being unauthentic? Not helpful.
My recent realisation about this topic was that in some ways, you can be more authentic online than offline. That’s right.
Offline, I’m pretty timid, I don’t like socialising much at all, I’m pretty introverted. Online? I like to make new connections, and be confident in what I say and do.
So, my online me is false? Not at all!
I really wish that offline, I could be the confident online me, but I can’t.
Being online removes boundaries that potentially allow us to be who we wish we were. It allows us to project our ‘inner selves’ in a sense.
Is that not more authentic? Does the freedom of the Internet allow me to display a truer version of myself?
I think so. But at the same time, I don’t think we’ll ever be able to see just how authentic we are online, or in any circumstance. All we can do is try our bests to be who we think we are, or should be, or to be the best version of ourselves.
Over to you:
- Do you think we can ever be authentic online?
- what efforts do you make to try and be authentic online?
It would be great if you could comment and help get a conversation going, so that we can learn something from it!