Sharing More Than We Think

Technology writer Nicholas Carr reflects on how what we share online imitates our persona much more than we imagine.

Your online self […] is entirely self-created, and because it determines your identity and social standing in an internet community, each decision you make about how you portray yourself – about which facts (or falsehoods) to reveal, which photos to upload, which people “to friend,” which bands or movies or books to list as favorites, which words to put in a blog – is fraught, subtly or not, with a kind of existential danger. And you are entirely responsible for the consequences as you navigate that danger. You are, after all, your avatar’s parents; there’s no one else to blame. So leaving the real world to participate in an online community – or a virtual world like Second Life – doesn’t relieve the anxiety of self-consciousness; it magnifies it. You become more, not less, exposed.

Carr notes that “in the Web 2.0 world we talk intimately, or at least familiarly, not just with people we actually know but with complete strangers” and comes to the conclusion that no matter how impersonal our online ‘sharings’ (blog posts, tweets, etc.), the aggregate ends up being “the foundation of a scary-deep self-portrait”—but a self-portrait of who is the question that is left unanswered.