Crafting an Online Persona: The Case Studies of Facebook, Twitter, and Spotify

For someone that keeps a pretty small circle and would appear to not care about how he is perceived online very much, I’ll be the first to admit that it probably crosses my mind more than it should. I guess that’s just the nature of contemporary times—it’s a virtual world and we’re addicted to it. Before I post something, I have to ensure it’s witty and relatable—but generally only relatable if you understand the wit behind it. I justify it by posting rarely, by telling myself that barely anyone reads my sporadic thoughts on Twitter or whatever, and then I get on with it [my life].

It’s such an odd dynamic that it’s difficult to even fully articulate. Not many people read these thoughts, and yet I am so guarded about what I reveal about myself through them. I can’t allow myself to post things that might deviate from the image I have created: bookish, smug-ish but able to laugh at the truly smug who do a disservice to their fellow man, sports-crazed but fully cognizant of the fact that the sports watching is some escape mechanism filling a void that I one day hope to fill with nobler pursuits. Well, fuck the last bit actually—I’m fine with the sports watching and probably won’t change.

But the point is that I have created a projection of myself that exists only in this paradigm. It’s not as if this projection is all that different from me in the flesh, it really isn’t as I’m bookish, smug, and like to talk about hockey, that is me, but it’s still so weird to think that I would even care about whether my latest tweet showcased my intelligence. It’s stupid, really.

And perhaps the greatest irony here is that I have done everything in my power to limit my audience on social media. I don’t have an Instagram, or a “gram” as kids these days call it, no real interest. Had it for a few weeks back in 2013 or 2014 and then hung up the cleats. I can see shit with my eyes in the world: landscapes, Starbucks cups, dogs, girls. I prefer it that way.

Freshman year of college I deleted (axed, is the term I would use) nearly everyone on my Facebook to have a laugh. I dubbed it my, “Quest for double-digits”. And I got there, to 99, from probably 500 or so. I think the lowest I’ve dipped to is in the 50s. A purge is actually overdue right now. Nonetheless some of the looks you get in your dorm when you defriend a person that you had just accepted a few weeks prior, like someone that might share a table with you at a meal or tag along on a night out with some regularity, were some of the dirtier ones I’ve ever had to shrug off.

Ironically, and James and I have talked about this as he and I engaged in similar “axing” tactics, I would get annoyed when someone I had axed who I felt I had meant something to didn’t add me back in a timely manner. I can’t believe they would do this to me! What a— when literally I was the one that deleted them. You can’t make up the absurdity of such a reaction, nor can you make up the fact that 4 years later some of these people still haven’t added me back! The gall.

I think the whole axing thing is a way for myself to mock the whole rise of social media, my way of bemoaning it, and this defense would hold if it wasn’t for the fact I have laid out that I am somewhat self-conscious of how I am viewed on these things. You either care or you don’t care, can’t have it both ways, and I fear I might care, damn it!

Whatever it is, whatever self-esteem issues I have buried deep within me, Facebook doesn’t take up much of my social media time anymore because there are only so much 82 people consisting of close to close-ish friends (who also don’t use the thing much) and relatives can say. Even less that I care about. Actually, nothing. I have not read one good thing on Facebook in the 9(?) years I’ve had it. Save for a private Fantasy Hockey group page and its messaging system, it’s useless.

Now Twitter on the other hand, Twitter is my boy. Spend WAY too much time scrolling through my timeline—both on my phone and, yes, a desktop. I barely even tweet and have 63 followers (at least half of those probably being bots or accounts that don’t even read tweets). I act like I don’t care that I don’t have many followers but not gonna lie it’d be pretty cool to have an audience on the thing and get validated with retweets and favs and hearts. But that is what it is, and I’ve made my bed with the amount I tweet so I’ll lie in it.

What I can control is who I follow and this I monitor very closely. If a friend is idle for a while, AXED. If an account’s content grows to be weak, AXED. I used to follow a lot of “weird twitter” humor accounts but I finally decided I needed to grow up and let most of those guys go. I’m very proud of the 80 I’ve assembled: an array of real life friends, TV personalities, journalists, sports teams, politicians, socialist news outlets and thinkers…basically completely normal and cool shit. I design it for myself and thoroughly enjoy it. Equally I’d like to think anyone who came across it would be like holy shit this kid is the man. Two birds one stone.

Then Spotify, Spotify is a funny one because for a couple years I didn’t realize there was a “Private Session” button so really I gave my hand away if anyone was paying attention. But once I did discover the “Private Session” button it has completely revolutionized how I’ve used the thing. Like sometimes I’ll “Private Session” Ashlee Simpson’s “Pieces of Me” or Red Jumpsuit Apparatus’s “False Pretense” because I don’t want people to think, Really? That’s like the 20th time today does he literally just sit at home all day and listen to bad music? because there’s only 1 answer there and there’s no way to hide it.

But then at other times I’ll just deliberately play a bunch of guilty pleasures and not “Private Session” the thing. It makes no sense! In recent times some of us have started making playlists, some pretty serious with some good tunes and others just to be more ironic and laugh which has been a rewarding development.

Well, that’s all I got for now. I suppose the point is that the degree to which we seek validation through these mediums is pretty scary. You can do things like delete people on them or purposely listen to bad music to be ironic, but in a sense you can’t escape thinking about how all of it is being perceived by the other users in the virtual world. I think it affects those of us that want to put up a front that we’re the least complicit, those of us that all things being equal probably are the least complicit. Some people are probably in much, much deeper. And no one really knows what the consequences are—we haven’t gone through anything like it as a species before.

I’d write more, but I’ve got the attention span of a puppy and need to check my feed again. It’s been like 20 minutes.

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