Identity and the Internet

Last night, I did what I hate. I did a series of tweets expressing my unhappiness and signed off, somewhat permanently.

This isn’t the first time I’ve walked away from a Twitter account. The last time had much more specific reasons, though. All the same, it marks a similar change of internet identity for myself.

A few years back, and since I was randomly given the moniker by NYU’s IT department, everything I did was as jmb252. It’s still part of several email addresses that I still use. For lack of anything better to call myself on various fora and log-ins, I kept jmb252. It was short, it was simple, and it was pretty anonymous. On a number of occasions, it’s been clear that not only did jmb252 have nominal anonymity, it also had gender anonymity. Given my tendency towards crude and cruel humour and swearing, it was often assumed that I was a male. After over a decade of jmb252, I set it aside after my 30th birthday. It was partially a coincidence and partially just about time for such a change.

That’s when I became, on Twitter and on this blog, jeninher30s. It was self-explanatory and served to identify me in a number of ways. I was putting my exact demographic out there. There were no gender or age surprises. Really, there were no surprises at all. It was an identity that encouraged self-reflection and confession. Most of the posts on here are vague confessions about my character flaws.

jeninher30s has been a way for me to explore the faults of my own personality, in the hope that it will help with my various types of writing. In that, it has been somewhat successful. I’ve been able to look at why I do certain things and that has allowed me to think in different ways about why other people do other things. It’s certainly made a change in the fiction writing I’ve been doing. My obsession, as a writer, is with foibles and flaws. I’m most interested in broken people and things, and the often minute ways people show their problems to the world.

But I think I’ve hit another point where change is needed. I’ve come to a point where I need to grow out of jeninher30s, and the extraordinarily negative outlook that goes along with it. I still have that very Dorothy Parker part of me, but now that I’m getting back to freelance writing, I can’t sell that. I need to have a more positive way of presenting myself, something that isn’t an exaggerated character of who I actually am. It’s been fun being a partial identity, a character, but it’s time to move on.

When I became jeninher30s, I brought a lot of jmb252 baggage along. On Twitter, I largely imported my follow list which grew not as a reflection of my own Twitter experience, but as a group psyche. It was the Twitterati, as it was once called in an early list. Many of the people who were early fixtures for me have fallen off. Some quit, some became minor internet celebrities, and others think they are. I’ve had arguments, I’ve culled, I’ve even had the odd block or two.

But last night, as I was taking a break from [read: avoiding] work, I realised that most of what was there wasn’t anything I was interested in. It was a social circle that I no longer felt a part of. It interacted around me. I felt like I was at a big party, sitting in the corner watching everyone else have fun. I’ve been like that at actual parties. I know the feeling well. I usually get over that feeling by consuming far more alcohol than I should. I don’t want to have to drink to enjoy Twitter.

So, with a string of obnoxious tweets, I left the party. I’ve not left Twitter. I’m slowly getting a new account — one that’s simply my actual name — running. I’m slowly following people not because I’ve followed them forever, but because I want to follow them now. It goes along with the portfolio site I’m working on, too. It’s me, as a professional, as an adult, as Jen Mclevey.

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About jeninher30s

A writer and procrastinator.

6 responses to “Identity and the Internet”

  1. vivisunoriginal says :

    This is a really interesting post, issues of identity are fascinating and trying to work out my own identity is something that takes up a fair proportion of my time – every time I think I’m close to figuring it out something in my life changes and I’m left feeling unsure of quite who I am again (this is often quite a positive thing even if it doesn’t sound that way).

    For a while I’ve been thinking about changing my Twitter and Blog name – vivisunoriginal came about because I couldn’t find any combination of my first and last names that wasn’t already taken, I got more and more frustrated until I eventually yelled at myself “God, I’m just so unoriginal” and that become my user name. Now that I write a little bit and I sometimes need to include links to my blog or Twitter feed on CVs or on my Linkedin account, and having listened to a year of lectures about the dangers of plagiarism, I find myself thinking that for a would-be writer the label of being ‘unoriginal’ probably isn’t terribly helpful…but I’m too bloody unoriginal to come up with an alternative!

    • jeninher30s says :

      I’d never thought of the plagiarism aspect of your name… Though the name itself is very much a reflection of who you were at that time, rather than who you are now. I know when you wrote about it the other day (or week now, probably) I though that — it’s 2010 Viv being down on herself, something that 2011 and 2012 Viv doesn’t do very often. Have you had any thoughts on a new name?

      • vivisunoriginal says :

        possibly awholenewViv, which is the name of one of my Flickr accounts, I don’t know, I might just leave it as it is, I’m kind of fond of my name

  2. Gray says :

    I totally get the party thing. I’ve felt like that about twitter for a while and definitely enjoy it more after a drink. I think the social side of it we saw back in the beginning has mutated, twitter constantly evolves, but as a tool, there’s nothing else quite like it.

    • jeninher30s says :

      It’s still my preferred social network, but I need to start over with it, so that it’s something that I can enjoy at this point in my life. I’m sure there’s going to be a significant overlap between accounts (there already is), but it’s easier to just go from nobody than to try to do some cull that will inevitably have to be vaguely tactical. There are some absolutely brilliant tweeters that I probably won’t follow again. Nothing against them, but I’d rather have a feed that’s more interactive than watching other people perform.

  3. Tom Owen says :

    I’ve never thought this much about twitter as a real manifestation of an identity. I just use it to vent.

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