Identity and Humanity Online

Howard in the mirror

Geoff Livingston did a recent blog post about “Deconstructing Identity in the 21st Century.” He questions how we handle our online identities and thinks deeply about how we show ourselves to others online.

While we share individual pieces of our lives, the image of ourselves we want people to see shifts. Our peers and family members add their own touches to the picture. Identity is no longer controlled by the individual, rather it’s painted in an impressionist or abstract fashion by their peers.

Geoff’s musings continue a discussion that has gone on for millennia. For instance, danah boyd (she doesn’t use caps) talked about how difficult it is for us to change our names online and how Facebook has forced us into “radical transparency.” Are we ready for being open to everyone and everything online? Are we equipped to put forth an image and a “personal brand”?

Different networks require us to share in different ways. No #hashtags on Facebook, and using an @Name on LinkedIn may be confusing, but it is relevant on Twitter. Witness a recent Pew Internet and American Life report that 61% of Facebook users say that “they have voluntarily taken a break from using Facebook for a period of several weeks or more.” While 20% of those users just had lots to do, 9% were looking to avoid “excessive gossip or “drama” from their friends” and 8% were spending too much time on the site, and “needed to take a break.”

These stats back up Livingston’s assertion that it is easy to get “lost” online hoping others will notice us.

A Kafkaesque Trial begins. Who will talk about me, even worship me for who I am? No one it seems. Always close, but no answer. Off to the next day and its social engagement exercise, yet another unfulfilled attempt to quiet the discontent of wanting to understand self.

As we think about what we’re trying to do here at One4All, we see in our efforts enabling more humanizing interactions. We believe when we see people donating to their favorite causes, and giving gifts to others to encourage their giving, we see honest intent toward deeper personal connections. I’ve received some great thank-you’s from friends with whom I’ve shared One4all. The One4All team is driven by the goal of helping people “Unleash Your Good” and enabling them to do more for others.

I know that giving, for me, has helped me to connect both online, and in person, with real human beings. My friend Andrew has supported my MS Bike rides for 3 years, riding along with me (including the year that I couldn’t make it due to a bad back!) We’ve interacted more in the last 3 years than in the past 25, and all around an experience for fundraising and social good. But the fundraising is done online and the “asks” are in email and social networks.

That communication is yet another facet of my online identity, but one, I believe, that helps bring the true person out in front of any online facades. Others get to see the authentic side of me, including the part that is involved in various philanthropic efforts. I’m excited to be working with One4All in that it is an opportunity to connect with more charities, share my passion for causes, and to connect with friend’s causes and learn more about them and what they care about. As the platform evolves and my giving does too, I look forward to being able to curate my “good works” through the actions I take. There is some transparency, in that people will see my actions when I allow it, but not how much I give (unless I tell them), but I’m good with that. Sharing what you want and protecting what you want to are core values at One4All, and it keeps us grounded.

What helps you to feel most human online?

One comment

  1. Great reflection. Last year I engaged in an exercise to donate anonymously once a month online to give purely for giving. I think it was when I felt my best, my purest, and it was truly electrifying to act without being seen. Giving is where we shine, especially when it is done in the spirit of altruism.

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