Online Identity

I have a lot of thoughts rattling around in my brain tonight (this morning? It’s after 4am!). It’s really appropriate to bring them here, considering what blogging is really all about!

I am struggling with the degree to which I base my identity around my online identity, persona, whatever you want to call it. For me, I am mostly talking about my Facebook profile, although for others that probably extends easily to Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, WordPress, etc.

I started using Facebook in 2006. Six years ago I was not the person I am today, although I have some love for that girl – after all, she is who I used to be! Since the introduction of Timeline, I’ve had to (read: chose to) be faced with my past in all of its glory.

The immaturity of a first-year university student, having brutal fights with best friends right where the world can see them. My too-varied romantic life, in code – posts from flames, boyfriends, lovers that effectively map out when I dated who (to me, and occasionally obviously enough for others to figure out). The pains of a thought-she-was bipolar, isolated, alienated girl who took a while to get strong enough to stop crying for help in Facebook statuses.

Now, you may have heard the rumour about Facebook posting your private messages to your Timeline for the years 2007-2009 (approximately). Even though Facebook is flatly denying this (http://www.zdnet.com/facebook-private-message-issue-raises-more-concerns-over-privacy-7000005287/), it looks like it has happened to me. Just like when it first shifted over, I’ve spent over an hour tonight scrolling through these messages. And as I have done this before, recently, it was immediately evident to me that more messages are visible than were before.

I’m not going to lie, I was looking for something specific. In 2007, I had a boyfriend that cheated on me – horribly, repeatedly, and in a predictably manipulative fashion. In fact, the girl ‘on the side’ engaged in friendly and earnest Facebook PM communication with me to reassure me that nothing of the sort was happening – of course, this was not the first time we’d broken up due to cheating with the same girl (remember the part above, when I said how silly and sad early-Facebook-me was?). This eventual crisis served as my first emotional trauma, sent me into counselling, helped me develop a serious trust complex, and formed how I dealt with relationships for years afterward.

I couldn’t find those messages. Why did I want to see them? Who knows. Morbid curiosity. I did see phone numbers and addresses posted by friends, so I am fairly certain I got hit by this mysterious glitch. I also saw a lot of other messages that hurt: friends I have fallen out with, a boyfriend who seemed so nice and turned out to be a monster, and the exploits of the person I used to be.

I do not want this accessible to others. I don’t want to be associated with this person, this girl, this said pre-woman who so badly needed attention (or thought she did, at least). But I don’t want to forget her. I don’t want to kill her. I only want her to be private.

I am considering starting from scratch – I have a new email and could easily deactivate my Facebook, add the important people back, and start again. The thoughts that started going through my head after that idea are panicked in tone, and so astoundingly superficial. What about all of the photos I am tagged in? Those prove to people that I have had a life, and friends, even if I don’t have much of either right now. What about all of the comments on my profile pictures? They prove to the world that sometimes people think I’m pretty! What about the carefully constructed, mature (I think now, let’s see in six years), critical statuses and notes I’ve posted, in part to construct a specific image of myself in the friends and frenemies who frequent my online world?

Whatever is a girl to do when so much of her identity is out of her control?

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