|Who Am I? - 7/29/11
|I've been thinking a lot lately about online identity and identity in general. We all modify our personalities, if subtly, depending on the people we are with. Perhaps it's an effort to impress, or not to offend or to intimidate. Whatever. Each of us has a million different versions of ourselves floating around in meat space. The only time someone would notice the difference is if they pay attention while you are with them and someone for whom you project a drastically different version of yourself. Online, you don't know who you are going to be presenting yourself to at any given moment, so it is much more difficult to modulate who you are. Am I writing this for someone who is a fan of my music? Turn up the pretentious angst a notch. My writing? Perhaps I should try and sound erudite. A future employer? Best try not to say anything too offensive, son. The problem is that online, it is all of them, all at once. If I go for the lowest common denominator, then I end up seeming bland and uninteresting to everyone. Generally speaking, my feeling is "fuck bland. "
Hiring managers, that was the first shot across your bow. I can and do communicate with customers from institutions small to obscenely large all the time and can talk in lovely corporate speak. I touch base with them about when I'll follow up with the latest action plan and, blah, blah frickity blah. I most certainly do not send them here. If they are googling me, first off, I'm not even the only Mike Townsend who does music who comes up. Or the only one in the Boston area. Unless those other bastards kick it, there will at least be some plausible deniability for you and your organization. There, off you go. Shoo.
Now that we're alone, let's get down to the task at hand. Identity. The people who I follow the most closely online are big personalities. They have something to say, be it funny, insightful or just entertaining. But how does one hit any of those targets without turning other people off? The answer is they don't. And that's OK. Know your audience! OK, so who do I want to turn on (and how can I get their proverbial nickers off) I have several creative endeavors I'd like to pimp. My music is inconsistent in style but fairly focused in tone. At one point, I knew what it was. It was industrial Goddamnit! Black leather, a bit of S&M undertones (Ballgag was a subtle song, yes?) and lots of angst. That's how my favorites connected with me. The only problem is that I've grown and while I still enjoy all of the above, I've realized that in my early 20s, I was putting on airs that I've lost interest in wearing any longer. At 35, I spend less time trying out weird noises and more time trying to get the brass section samples to sound authentic. I'm not writing music for 20 year olds anymore. I'm not sure who I'm writing for, beyond myself and that fan is kind of a bastard.
My writing is also evolving. I do think about the audience and tone for each piece, but that's where it ends. Most of my stories are somehow filtered through a darker lens then you'd get if they were written by someone else. I haven't established myself enough yet to worry about grabbing someone and having them follow me from one project to the next. On the one hand, that sounds like a good problem to have, on the other, like walls being put up around my creativity. Either way, I still haven't fully defined how writer Mike behaves or who exactly he's trying to impress. Probably you, if you're reading this.
It seems like the common thread is that I'm introspective and self-involved. Not particularly marketable, I guess. That probably explains the day job. While I can't define it, I think I'm developing a unified online voice. One way I can tell is that I'm starting to cross reference my various identities and tying my name and face with each one more and more.
So what about you? Who are you really and who do you want me to think you are?