Thursday, 2 June 2011

Blurring the Boundaries

Many people, including me, use Twitter and/or Facebook, not to mention the other social networking sites. People, especially children, are warned to be wary of disclosing too much personal information to, let alone meeting with, anyone encountered through those sites partly because you can’t be sure who they are or what they want. Anyone can have a hidden identity online or set up their own boundaries over what people can see about them and what is private.

I have responsibility for three Twitter profiles, three Facebook, one MySpace, one LinkedIn....

Four are in my own real name, one is in my agency’s name, one is easily identifiable as me despite it using a nickname, one is in the name associated with this blog, the other is just ‘other’. Confused? I sometimes am.

I do not use my real name on this blog. I have already suffered some discrimination as an MSer. I don’t think it has professionally damaged me but it was bad enough that I consulted the MS specialist at the Disability Law Service.

It is nobody’s business but mine that I have MS and I don’t have to tell anyone if I don’t want to. I don’t usually tell people in my business because it is an incredibly subjective and judgemental one. I have a flexible boundary that means I’ve told friends and loved ones about my MS and some colleagues too but, for the most part, it’s private and personal to me.

On Twitter, people sometimes make incredibly personal disclosures or have public conversations with loved ones or enemies that are very revealing. Sometimes it’s like someone picking their nose whilst driving because they think that they’re in a box of their own, oblivious to the fact that others can see right into that ‘box’. You might feel guilty witnessing a private act but it’s their fault for doing it on full show.

Picking their nose is not a euphemism but there are lots of other private acts that take place in cars despite the fact the windows are not frosted or steamed up. Well not at first. I’ve watched Titanic, I know what can happen.

At least in a car with the windows wound up you can’t hear very much from the outside. The other day a couple had a very loud conversation on my upstairs neighbours’ balcony. I was sat outside, plainly visible, in the communal area at the back of the block of flats. I could hear every word they were saying. I really didn’t want to so I went inside but it puzzled me that people should ‘wash their dirty linen’ in public like that.

It’s the same with phone calls in public places. Except they are more frustrating for the inadvertent over-hearer. We only get to hear one side of the conversation.

A ‘private’ tweeted dialogue (through Direct Messages) is not as exciting as the public ones. I have to be careful not to tweet too opeinly using one of my Twitter profiles as it could be blurring my boundary with regards to my MS persona. This is especially confusing because some people are followers of more than one of my accounts. That is blurring the boundaries.

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