Yesterday someone I knew roughly fifteen years ago wrote to me via Facebook. She asked me if I were dying because she had noticed my status updates on Facebook (and quite possibly this blog) and was, I quote, sooo worried about me!!!!!!!!! One thing which absolutely fascinates me about blogging and, by extension, social networking on the web, is the idea that you "know" the blogger or the person you follow on a social website. Where does that idea of "knowledge" comes from?
I don't know about you, but I moderate my online persona and I have done so ever since I first started blogging almost eight years ago. I used to be almost obsessively private about my identity, but when one of my blog readers began stalking me obsessively in my then-hometown, I realised that anybody would be able to find out who I was no matter how hard I tried to mask my identity. It was just a matter of how net-savvy you were. These days I link my real name to this blog and use a somewhat transparent web 'handle'. I continue to be very aware what I share online.
Do you know me if you read this blog? Of course not, although you will have a good idea of what to expect if we were to have a conversation offline. Can you deduce anything significant from my Facebook-updates? Quite apart from my having a semi-severe PathWords obsession, no.
I'm slightly amazed that anybody would consider asking me about dying via a casual Facebook message or think I would disclose terminal illness via one-sentence updates on a silly social networking site. I think this proves the divide between illusory 'knowledge' generated by virtual interaction and actual knowledge of the person writing all of this.