Sunday, 2 December 2012

Identity Crisis

Prove the following:

Okay, no, not that sort of identity crisis. I'm talking about the dividing line between work and home. You know, like what they've mentioned on Bones, except here I'm going to take an electronic communications angle.

Consider: For work, you have a work email, a work number (perhaps even a mobile phone provided by them), a social account (or online board) for discussing things with coworkers, and likely key browser tabs or a work webpage (even as a teacher, I use one to post up the lessons of the day). For home, you have a personal email, a home number (perhaps just a mobile phone), a social account (Facebook, Twitter) for discussing things with friends, and likely key browser tabs or a webpage (where you may blog about stories you're writing).

Very clear dividing lines between the different accounts though, right?  No overlap between work and home?  Yeah, right.

So here's the crisis part. Do I really want a more professional website linked with my personal YouTube account as connected to my more laid back Twitter feed... where I admittedly about tweet work related things? Because Gmail seems really serious about making all of that (along with G+) interconnected - and once it's together, it's devilishly hard if not impossible to break the links. (I suspect the cloud is to blame. We're not supposed to have multiple clouds?)

Someone else has already discussed the idea of online identity better than I at that link, but I'm going to outline my personal struggles anyway. Quick context for the following: I have three primary emails. My work email (Work), my personal email (Home), and an email for my math webseries "Taylor's Polynomials" (MathTans).

CASE ONE: I created a YouTube account back in the summer, after deciding that I would participate in "Mystery Teacher Theatre 2000". I ultimately decided to make my video an episode of my webseries. And found I couldn't disassociate the YouTube account from my Home email to switch it over. I had to make a new account from MathTans.

So I now have two YouTube accounts, one where I'm following Math related things (Home), and one where I've started following Song Mashups (MathTans)... which is kind of reversed, but I can't be bothered disassociating each set of links in order to swap them.

CASE TWO: I created a LinkedIn account on my Home email (not with Work because it's more a job networking site). I then started following a Teacher's Group there. So I'm getting work related information flowing through my Home account - and there's another source of crossover too, in terms of using the Home account to follow Ontario political issues outside of work.

Add to this, the fact that a few years ago I created a webpage for a course I teach. I wasn't doing this through a Wiki (though again, another place needing an email to sign up...); this was done through "gmail sites". So again, my Home email. I've since expanded the site, and am using it for all my courses... but of course, when I'm at Work I need to log into my Home mail every time I want to update. Just like when I'm at Home, I'm getting Work related messages.

CASE THREE: I created my Twitter account through MathTans, my web series. I figured I'd be using it to tweet updates and other things of interest, as well as to see what Twitter was all about. Plus my home email was getting cluttered already via CASE 2. Then owing to circumstances, my web series went on hiatus.

I've continued to use Twitter, but usually not while logged in as MathTans. It's asked on occasion whether that's still my account, and it also wants me to hook in with Google+. But I have two Google+ now too, personal and web series related, and I don't want to forge a permanent link to MathTans Google+ when I use Home Google+ more often.

Corollary: I followed math blogs on MathTans and personal blogs on this (Home) blog. So most of my comments on blogs pointed back to MathTans. Now I'm using this blog more, but my comments still point back there. Should I be switching? For that matter, I don't even know the answer as to who would be more likely to follow me sporadically here, versus regularly on MathTans, versus both? (Or neither? Though c'mon, if you've read this far...)

CASE FOUR: Facebook. When I first signed in years ago, it was a strictly personal thing; I politely turned away colleagues. I was trying to make a definitive line somewhere - you can't necessarily walk into a store without seeing a student there and being seen as a Teacher. So this was going to be a place totally separate, where if I chance to grumble about marking, or post of pictures of me on vacation, it would take an unusual chain for school colleagues and students to find out. (Not that I didn't want them to see some things, but I'd prefer to tell them in person.)

Now, I've been feeling less restrictive there lately. I do still only have about a hundred FB "friends", very few of them being ones I haven't personally met at some point in my life... but I've again hooked in a page for my math webseries, and most of my hesitation in expanding now is that I'm not sure if I'M ready to see pictures of coworkers on vacation, as opposed to the reverse. So I'm not sure where that sits... do other people out there friend a lot of Work people on Home FB?

I guess what I'm saying is I have to keep logging in across multiple accounts. (I have even another for my personal webpage, in fact.) But that's what I wanted. Separation. Order. In fact I know there's people out there with two Twitter accounts, used for different purposes. Yet I can't seem to make some of the links where I want to - and once links ARE made, it's so difficult to uncouple them, if you'd prefer they were set up differently! Or gone altogether! (Or maybe it's easy but I've no time to find the site that explains it?) Instead, the web does things like encourage you to be signed in to multiple accounts at once. So we're at the point where I avoid linking. I'm left with the impression that electronically, we're trying to jam people into a lovely box/cloud, which seems to me to have two consequences:

1) People may learn more about you than you intend. Which will either give them a false impression, or make identity theft easier.
2) It can become more difficult to stretch outside this box, which in it's own way is encouraging stereotyping.

So, to sum up, it's not that I have a problem with doing Work related things at Home (or vice versa) - goodness knows I spend enough time at home marking papers. It's that, well, my online life is becoming cluttered, and I'm not sure how to clean it up. I don't think connecting things even more is the way to go, but diversifying too much results in too many damn passwords to remember. So... yeah. Until I think of an alternative, my blog comments will likely remain pointing at the web series I'm not updating? Feel free to offer suggestions.

As to the initial crisis, try multiplying LS by 1, where 1 is defined by RS/RS.


  1. I hear you about the separation. Electronic leashes keep you close, even as you try to put in distance. Not helping are the companies trying to tie everything together. I'm trying to maintain that same separation between professional and personal. If someone goes to, say, my Facebook, they see me at rest. I don't post anything about work there if I can help it. Venting goes to someplace even more private. My Twitter account is under a name of a character I've written, to further maintain separation.

    Sure, someone could, with some effort, make the connections, but, right now? Everything is separated, in part to maintain plausable deniability. It's needed, and more social media companies need to listen.

  2. I've noticed that in your accounts. I suppose I compound the problem when I actually tweet about updates, despite Twitter and Blog technically running as separate entities. I might do things differently if I had them to do over - but I don't, and moreover, it might have made things more difficult at that time, to the extent that I wouldn't have gotten to where I am now.

    Interestingly, I've started commenting on other people's blogs with the link back to my Home Google+ instead of my MathTans. I now have another half dozen followers there, from I'm not sure where. (Perhaps it's because I'm not very active on that account; I know when I see someone updating over a dozen times a day, I won't add unless it looks really, really interesting, as I'll never be able to keep pace.)