For the past several months I’ve been experimenting with socialnetworking. In the past, my online activity has been hidden behind a subterfuge of handles and anonymous comments. However, three things conspired to draw me into the the vast arena of Web2.0.
First, my previous experience with CompuServe (back in the early 90s) and some recent experience with MySpace. Next, I kept hearing about Twitter, in multiple venues, so decided to give it a try. Finally, due to some illness in our home last year, I wasn’t able to get out as much as I’d like. These three opportunities convinced me to dive in with both typing fingers – so-to-speak!
My first PC had a 4800 Baud modem and a free month of CompuServe. On CompuServe, there were forums, chat rooms, IM, and a host of other sharing tools. These were heady days, almost pre-Internet – at least before the tubes went fully public. It wasn’t long before I’d upgraded my modem to 9600, then 14.4k, then 33.3k. I learned the foundation of my tech experience dealing with those modems.
It wasn’t long before CompuServe was swallowed up by the first dot.com bubble and users were left to their own devious devices. Socialnetworking has been a part of the Net from the beginning, and it never really went away, it has just gone through various permutations.
Twitter was the key for unlocking the world of 21st Century Socialnetworking. Somehow, I connected with the right people and my network of friends took off! Then, with my need to stay home, I found friendship and intelligent dialog online. Through these connections, I revived my interest in blogging (I first blogged in 1997). Also, various tools became a regular part of my explorations into the Internets.
Recently, I was bitten though. Twice actually. First, I thought I had a super-seekrit “leadership” blog, but it turns out it was not secret and was being widely read by the people I most was keeping it from. I just needed a place to process, a place to get some limited feedback from my mentors and coaches, and a place to vent. Unfortunately, I didn’t do a good job in protecting that.
Today I was informed that people have been lurking on my Twitter stream and have been offended by some of my comments. So, my first reaction was to lock down my Twitter stream and make it private. This would involve shutting off the FaceBook link, the FriendFeed link, the Netvibes link, and the widget on one of my websites. It would mean cutting off the identica stream, the Plurk posts, the Pownce posts, and the Jaiku, Tumblr, BrightKite, Shizzow, Kwippy, and Plaxo feeds.
As I think through this, I see another option. Can you say, self-censorship? This is really unappealing to me too. I’ve been self-censoring my whole life. I became an alcoholic trying to stop the self-censorship, and that didn’t turn out so hot. So, I thought I found a venue where I could be real, authentic, and transparent. But apparently this is hurtful to some.
What to do? What to do?
What I’d like to do is invite the lurkers to put their lives on the line. Join the conversation, participate, call me out when you disagree. It is only through open and honest dialog that we can grow together. Self-censorship nearly killed me the first time, I don’t ever want to go back to that state.
Here’s what I’ve learned though. People would rather I be safe, than transparent. To be safe, in this broken shell of a human, I’d have to self-censor. So, does that make the “stuff” inside go away? Nope. It just stuffs it down deeper. In my value system, I’d rather people share what’s on their hearts and be healthy, rather than stuff-it and be unhealthy. I am opposed to pretense and facades. I’m all about authenticity.
If I turn off my feed, stop tweeting, or self-censor, I will end up back in the cave. The loss is that the 90% of good tweets will be lost with the few negative ones. Is that worth the price? I’d love to hear some feedback?