This week Postsecret has a secret saying "I think I'm starting to constantly think in 140 characters". Although I don't really use Twitter - Facebook is my social networking drug of choice - I can relate. I think I joined Facebook three or four years ago, and in that time I've gradually come here to write less and less. At first I enjoyed having a place to write short, quick updates about what I was doing in addition to my longer, more rambly LJ posts, but the end result has been a gradual stunting of my personal writing skills.

I think some of it is to do with my sense of online identity. Although I've never been particularly anonymous here this has always been a slightly more private space. I don't necessarily want everyone who is connected to me via Facebook to find it, and I try to make it so that it would take just a small amount of creative Googling for them to do so. I've also been locking down my posts more often as more people connect my real life persona with this handle. The reverse isn't so true: I'm well aware that anyone reading more than a couple of posts here will be able to find my full name and work details with pretty limited Google-fu, and that doesn't really bother me. I assume you all have my mobile number, and I thank you very much for not randomly calling me.

Thinking about it, the distinction is sort of an odd one. My professional life already seeps into my personal life. The people I know through work are part of the disability community. Some of them have known me since I was young, and some are people I socialise with on a regular basis. Me reading about their daily lives helps me to do my job better, and vice versa - which is why, although there's a large contingent of work-related people on my Facebook friends list, I've chosen to keep the 'professional information sharing' to a minimum. I see my work as very much about the personal. People can usually find out about the latest policy developments, workshops and political issues around disability through following any one of a number of email lists. They can ask me about them on Facebook, sure, but I'm not going to innundate people with that stuff in a space which I see as a mix of personal and professional. There are some practical uses to professional Facebook connections too - I've got some feeds from overseas people it's hard to reach otherwise, and the community can organise to respond to things quite quickly on Facebook.

So what's the difference between 'personal' on Facebook and 'personal' here?

My first thought is that it's sort of like the difference between polite conversation with acquaintances and the long, winding in-depth conversations you'd have with a close friend. The way you'd answer "How are you?" within those circles is very different. There are stock answers for acquaintances and colleagues, and you're expected to follow the conversational codes. With people you don't know very well - and don't want to know very well - you might be good, okay, a little ill or a little tired. You can't be questioning what it means to be happy in life or (in most circles) feeling as though you're spiritually accomplished, or pissed off with someone over that thing that happened yesterday. Again, I have some funny divides in who gets what because of the mixed professional and personal circles - there are people I go into professional meetings with that I'll greet with hugs, which is pretty much my standard greeting (and goodbye, and method of offering condolences and congratulations) for anyone I regard as a friend.

(Let me reassure you that I would never, ever hug a politician's advisor or a government hack. I do have some standards.)

We filter our real lives according to social rules, and I think the internet is only just starting to catch up to that. Some people are using literal filters in all of their social networking, some people are using different social networking platforms (and email addresses and handles) to filter different groups. I think I've very haphazardly set myself up with a mix of strategies. I didn't start out with any filters on my LJ for instance, and now I have several. Some are about privacy, some are things like "maybe not everyone wants to read my haphazard attempts at poetry". Now I'm finding that Facebook itself is a filter for people I wouldn't necessarily want to read the depth and breadth of stuff I write about myself here.

This is a big part of why I'm writing less. It's not just that I'm focusing more on a broader group of people, and that my life has really been about putting energy into work over the past few years. It's not just that I'm lazy. Both of these things are true, but it's also about not being sure how my online identities are aligning, and worrying that I'm revealing myself too much to people I'd rather not.

That's not to skip over the other reasons. My laziness is equated with wanting 'fast' things - fast food, quick grabs of news, quick and simple interactions with people. I have to watch that I don't fall into these traps, or that I use the 'fast things' only when the context demands it (I'm not going to have the energy or facilities to get in-depth news when I'm on a day trip to Canberra, for example). This is a matter of keeping myself on task, of remembering that depth is important too.

I wonder if there is such a thing as a 'slow information' revolution, consicously taking the time to look at a few in-depth things rather than a bunch of superficial ones? Sort of like the 'slow food' movement for the internet...



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