Public persona

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In the midst of putting novel episodes out there (get your download of Episode Four right now), the delightful people at NerdCon: Stories sent around a survey and reminded me that I haven’t written further posts on my experience at the conference.

I’ve been thinking about one of the panels in particular, Life Online: Putting the Meme in Memoir. The panel had a funny and talented group led by Maureen Johnson, which included Hank Green, Maggie Stiefvater, John Scalzi, and John Moe. They talked about social media and how to figure out how much of yourself to be out there in the internets.

Scalzi said that being you online isn’t the same as being you in real life. It isn’t that you are being false at any point, but how you present is tuned to the specific context. Hank counseled to make good stuff first and show people what you are interested in. Then, you attract viewers/followers who are interested in whatever you are interested in. Maggie recommended being very specific about what you put out there. She also cautioned not to jump into discussions of some topics just because everyone else is, since what you are commenting on becomes part of your story as well.

Useful ideas to chew on, but a bit more advanced advice than my current social media skill set warrants. I do not feel adept at being myself or some finely-tuned, situation-appropriate side of myself in social media. I’ve wrung my hands over what to put on Twitter, been befuddled over the “purpose” of being on Facebook, and only posted once on my Tumblr. I’m an unenthusiastic participant in the social media swirl.

After the panel, I groused a bit to Matt. I went on for a while about what I wished the panelists had talked about. What made them want to go online in the first place? What compelled them to share any part of themselves, personal or otherwise, with total strangers? And my secret question: How do I make myself want to be out there too?

Later that evening, we went to another great performance of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind (our fourth, more please) by the New York Neo-Futurists as part of the conference programming. We walked back through the Skyway to the hotel after the performance and the Neo’s philosophy rattled around in my head. Their performances are meant to convey their ideas and experiences as directly and honestly as possible, without illusion. It’s theater with lines, blocking, costumes, and props, but it isn’t fictional. The writer/director/performers are themselves on stage and in their interactions with the audience.

They use their art to reach out to their audiences and share parts of themselves. That makes sense to me. If I tweak the questions I had for the panelists and ask them of myself, I get a little closer to understanding. What makes me want to put art online in the first place? What compels me to share any of my art with total strangers?

I want to do those things with art to make connections with other people. To share things I think are beautiful or strange or funny. To find others who think those things are beautiful or strange or funny too.

I might not know how to make myself want to be out there online yet, but making art is a start.

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