A professor recently followed my Twitter account. To some, that may elicit a sense of excitement or even pride, knowing a professor you looked up to took an interest in YOUR words.
I had a sense of sheer panic.
My Twitter account, which I pretty much NEVER use is connected to my Instagram account, to which no one follows me so my posts and pictures are, let me just say, what I assumed for my eyes only...to some degree.
My digital identity is all over the place. I am professional, albeit sparse, on my LinkedIn, which I never go to until I get an email that someone has been stalking that page, which is usually an ex-boyfriend or people I have no connection with from across the country. I deleted my Facebook account and my blogs haven’t been updated in months, if that. The only thing I had been religious on was my Instagram and that was mostly from boredom, child-like tendencies to excitedly make jokes and say inappropriate things and scroll through my feed which consists of nothing but surfers and surf-like Instas that I follow. I think I personally know only one of the people I follow and they never post, so really, it has become my own little world of just me and strangers who I live vicariously through.
My world changed abruptly when I received an email telling me my professor was following my Twitter feed...the same one connected to my Instagram which I am sure has a photo of my ass from when I got raked by a spike in the ground at a slip and slide party which excited me when the bruised gash started to look like the Eye of Mordor. That is my Digital Identity. My ass with the Eye of Mordor on it. That probably isn’t good.
In my panic I raced through my phone, attempting to delete all the posts that were associated with Instagram but soon I felt defeated. Why did I have to hide who I was (physically and personally)? Why did I panic when I realized that a professional might see who I really am, or who I portray myself as, unintentionally, on Instagram. Would this affect my future career? Would my humor and willingness to laugh at myself for my own faults and clumsiness be the things that ruin my chances at a job? Would my past, my modeling, be the other thing? But I don’t want to have to hide my accomplishments, even if they do not fall within the “professional realm”. I hate the idea that I cannot be myself and a professional at the same time. How do I find the right Digital Identity where I can be me, all personalities and “multiple spirits” included?
I wanted to figure out what it was that I wanted to have represent me, but how can I do that if I don’t even know who I am. I mean, I know who I am (wild, weird, open, honest, and willing to put myself out there for the sake of a laugh or whatever and following my dream of being a writer and teacher) but how do I keep honest with myself and yet figure out how I want to represent myself?
This has been frustrating. I hated that part about teaching high school. You could hide all you wanted, but you never knew when someone knew someone on Facebook and any joke I made or photo I took that was in no relation to school or my career could have easily been misconstrued and my career could have been at risk. I joke, I curse, I have fun, I am human. But having this digital identity you can’t really do that and I want to fight that. The idea of “personal censorship” is maddening to me. Who I am in my “hidden” Instagram or my Twitter account that I never use should not be used against me for any reason, but it can be and most likely it would be. And I hate that because who I am in the classroom and my work in my career is in no relation to the “Eye of Mordor” picture I have. Yes, it’s my ass, but it is also my humor and my wit and my creativity and my openness about who I am as a person. Must I fear who I am? The binding ties make me want to scream.
I wanted to start a campaign for finding ones own digital identity. No more shame for being yourself, but instead the ability to express who you are. Using #Identity, I wanted to express who I am through photos and words. My love, my strength, my fears, my passions. Why can’t I use this element to figure out who I am? And maybe even who you are. I am not a fan of trending, but I am a fan of getting people to take a step back and try to figure out what it is we are doing on this World Wide Web. This monstrous being that we have all yet to figure out. There are growing pains, there will be consequences, but can we still not exercise our rights of freedom of speech? Why am I so ashamed to know my professor is following me when I have nothing to be ashamed of? I am human. Someone who is following a dream. But I fear losing myself and my “multiple spirits” in the process of that dream for fear of being prosecuted for my individuality.
I want to use my #identity to make a point. I am creative, I am open, I am me. I do not want that to affect my career. If I am successful at my craft it is because I am successful at my craft. It is my #identity that makes me who I am and also makes me successful. Why should that be held against me? If anything it should be supportive that I am willing to find myself so that others and even students can also find themselves. I think it is time we teach #identity in classes, showing students how to be themselves and professional at the same time. Can we do that? Can we make it so that we can be ourselves and professionals at the same time? It’s like having to hide tattoos at work. Why? Why are we constantly hiding who we are? I understand that tattoos are still taboo and that some can be seen as offensive and that, say, as an ambulance worker works on an elderly lady having a heart attack, she may have an emotional or stressful reaction to a tattooed man who is in her home while she is on the brink of death. But isn’t that just a stereotypical response? When will we break down those walls? Can we not be professionals in our field and yet have a real life? Take Tom Kuntz as an example. Can he help us pave the way to a new identity for teachers and what we are expected to look like and act like? Is hiding who we are maybe the thing that is held against us in the eyes of the students? Is them seeing us as “not human” causing a rift and keeping students from wanting to listen? “Who is she anyway? She has no idea what I have been through. She doesn’t understand me”, seeing teachers as pods who only come out to teach, when in reality, teachers are some of the weirdest people you will ever know. Is our lack of #identity the thing that keeps us from really connecting with the students and the curriculum? Maybe if we bring our life to the class and to the world we can be seen as someone who is human and we too use this curriculum in our strange, daily lives. It’s like the tutor vs teacher phenomenon. Students want to feel comfortable in a learning environment, so can we achieve this with #identity?
There are so many fine lines and psychological aspects to this. You cannot be a friend if you are trying to be an authority figure. That is a given. But can we not be human? Can we not be who we are? At what point are we too much ourselves?
This digital identity concept has been both frustrating and thought-provoking. I want to find a way to incorporate this into my WAW class concept. There are so many “things” to cover and I am still not sure at what point DI will be something that can be solved. Judgements will always be passed as it always has throughout human existence. But maybe, as we start to grow with the burgeoning WWW, maybe we can begin to find a way in which we can be both ourselves and professionals without the fear of being persecuted.