Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Who Are You Online?

I'm a firm proponent of the idea that who you are as a person will come across in what you do, whether you intend it to or not. Mask it as you may, the truth eventually gets revealed. This is a concept that I've seen in scripture...the hidden things shall come to light. And it's a reality I've experienced personally, to my own hurt at times. I'm betting you know exactly what I'm talking about.

This issue raised its head for me yesterday in an unexpected way. I came across a blog post by Eden Baylee, "To Follow or Not to Follow." She had a bit of a run-in with an author who was following her account. When he saw that she was not following her back, he sent her a message that could read as a guilt trip. A little emotional blackmail, you know? And she responded back with her own approach to Twitter: she prefers to be in relationship with those she follows, rather than just amassing large numbers of people behind her account, even if she can't possibly interact with them all.

Baylee's blog post raises the legitimate question of how we treat others and how we interact with others online as we build a writer's platform. And since I've been mulling over how I can create meaningful Twitter relationships, the blog post spoke to me. Whether you're a writer yourself, like me, or whether you do something else for a living, the issue of how we interact with other people is always there. It's there even if you don't Twitter and will never Twitter (like my parents).

I'm sure that if you want advice on how to be a Twitter success, there are more than enough resources out there to give you suggestions. But I'd argue that the real goal isn't just to amass numbers. It's what will happen as a result of amassing a following, regardless of its size.

And that's where the issue of being yourself online comes in. Eventually, no matter how many or how few people you connect to, who you are is going to become obvious to everyone. Are you the kind of person who stops following someone, just because they're not following you? Do you only build relationships with people who can do you a favor, ignoring the unwashed masses who have nothing to offer you? 

You're building a platform, all right. But when you stand on that platform with the mics on, what are you saying? Is your message one that adds to the world around you? Or are you just screaming ME ME ME at everyone else? We're all going to know what you're saying eventually. Your motives will eventually become obvious.

I may not be able to change someone else's motives. But I sure as heck can determine my own. That's why I'm growing my Twitter account slowly. When someone follows me, I check out their Twitter account. I do it because I'm curious about other people, and I want to know why they're on Twitter. If they are fellow writers, then I try to follow back because we can and do support each other. I welcome people when they follow me, to see if we can carry on a conversation that will lead to a meaningful Twitter relationship. If you have a blog or website, I visit it. If you're saying something that needs to be heard, I retweet it. And if I mention you as someone to follow, I try to explain why.

Because this is all the stuff I'd do for you if we knew each other in person. In other words, who I am offline is who I am online. This is it, folks. For better or for worse. I say on Twitter what I say to people in "real life." Same for this blog. If it's on here, it's because I think it, believe it, and care about it.

Seems to me there isn't much point in trying to pretend to be someone else online. I'll slip at some point, and the real me will come through. So I'm just being myself. You'll be the judge of whether you respect me or not. But that doesn't bother me online. It doesn't bother me offline either. I trust these things to work out.

I hope you have that kind of trust too. It seems worth it, to me. What do you think?

Copyright (c) 2011 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

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