I found this week’s reading, “Seeing Ourselves Through Technology: How We Use Selfies, Blogs and Wearable Devices to See and Shape Ourselves,” as an incredibly helpful guide to tackling the world of, what I like to call, “online appearance.” The authors of the piece took great lengths to research and explore each of the apps and tools dedicated to making sure that users look their best. Introspectively speaking, I too am guilty of using online tools to hide and mask myself. I think that when used properly with the open understanding that the apps and devices are only tools and nothing more, the ideas presented in the article can help people in a great many ways. Robin Williams once said, and I’m paraphrasing that, “everyone is going through some shit and not everyone can see it – give ‘em a break will ya.” The tools and devices allow people to erect a safe barrier. Unfortunately, the overuse of some of the tools and ideas presented in the article will also bring about condemnation from those, who I assume, are just jealous they did not have the creativity or the wherewithal to present the idea first.
The authors of the piece brought up the idea that people use elements of their online tools like “Awards and Badges”. This struck me odd. It brought me back to the days where friends were Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. My friends had all their different badges for achievements and accomplishments. These days people tag where they’ve been like, “I got my Cancun, Mexico badge.” Or, “Today is my baby’s first day of school badge.” At first, I came at this with my mean, grumpy “Tom Façade”. It didn’t work. The ideas of people putting all these “Awards and Badges” out there has the potential to do so much good. In a couple of weeks, I intend to post online my “One Year Sober” badge. Who cares how much people use to hide or mask or open up about. Mankind has always used make-up and elaborate head dresses in order to plump up a perceived image of themselves. The American Indians as well as other cultures adopted huge adornments to make the world think they were larger than life and appear Godly. This piece helped me get some great ideas as to where to go when it comes time for me to fully make my online head dress.
And now that we’ve discussed the main characters in our story and how they can appear to be anything they wish, let us now “choose our own adventure”. The choosing of one’s own adventure was yet another idea I loved about how to use the tools. Many of the apps allowed users to change individual perceptions, now we get to craft the story we would like people to see online. I like that. But there needs to be a balance. There has to be some good with the bad in order for the tools to be used in a constructive manner. Too much good and people will ridicule and believe you truly are hiding something. Too much bad and people will either shy away from the negativity or try and come to that person’s rescue. The tools presented in the piece all offer a way to constructively build ourselves online.
The hardest question I have ever asked my students: “Tell me about yourself?” Even adults struggle with this very question. The tool presented in the piece (I’m refusing to name any one in particular because to give one credence over the others would be a disservice because they are all good.) allow users to address that question in a “World of Pure Imagination.” (Willy Wonka – Gene Wilder. The only one.) The piece also questioned if the ideas people present when using the tools discussed are not one’s “authentic self”. I believe that the images that people put up to represent themselves in the online world are in fact their authentic self. To look at my Facebook page where I free-write and post comedy, you’d think I was worthy of a rubber room. That is one authentic part of myself. I also use my Facebook persona as a diary. “Automated Diaries” was the title of chapter four. There is nothing automated about it, however. All of what I create and what millions of other create of themselves online takes work. The tools discussed in the chapter make the process of imagine rendering a bit easier to use and understand – but there is nothing automated about the process. I find the process of developing my online self through my selfies, blogs as a way to show the world who I am in a more positive, human light to be very therapeutic. I used to just show or tell people about the scars I have all over. I prefer this method better. I think it facilitates healing instead of reminding of old wounds. And since nothing ever goes away online, the diary never ends.