Fractured online identity? 8

Or split personality? Christopher Long, associate professor of Philosophy at PSU and soon to be associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts, is wondering how to manage his online presence. Should he have one unified identity @cplong? Or two or more, such as I have (@targuman and @shcdean)?

My comments were as follows.

I have two because I do try and keep my @shcdean more “professional,” just as I keep my SHC blog focused upon institutional matters. I think the key to remaining whole (and not fractured) is that I do not hide my other online “identities.” There are LOTS of students who follow @targuman and my other blog and will occasionally comment there or ask about something I have posted there.

On the other hand, I do not think that it would be terribly appropriate for me to ask for music suggestions at @shcdean. There are lots of folks who follow that twitter account (including news organizations and other administrators) who are looking to that feed for more “official” sorts of information.

Or, to put it another way, I wear a coat and tie to work, but at home I put on jeans. I am still the same person, but the change of context allows a change of attire.

What do you think? Comment here or on Chris’ Typepad blog. For those mulling online pedagogy issues, you must check out


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8 thoughts on “Fractured online identity?

  • Christopher Long

    The discussion we have been having over at my Long Road Map blog is an important one for me as I turn to my role as Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies over a the College of Liberal Arts.

    I am thinking more about the change of attire metaphor you use and am beginning to wonder about my level of self-exposure on my personal blog, the Long Road. I am proud of the way I am trying to write personally and reflectively about the everyday aspects of my life there, but I do wonder about exposing myself too much in that space. To continue with your metaphor, yes, I wear different clothes in different contexts, but I don’t want everyone to see me in my PJ’s.

    I worry about putting too much of my personal life and particularly images and stories of my kids out there for anyone. I have done a lot of thinking about integrating my web presence there at the Long Road, but is it too integrated? Will it expose my family too much? Will it make my job as Dean more difficult because boundaries are too blurred?

    On a related but different note, speaking of fracturing, it is too bad that this conversation cannot be integrated into that one more fluidly than it is as we manually post cross links.

    Finally, thanks for thinking out loud about this with me, it really helps me process things even if the answers remain, as ever, elusive.

    • Chris Brady Post author

      Chris thank you for help us all think a bit more about our online identities or personalities. I do not put very much about my family online. I do have some pictures on facebook and flickr, but mostly they are protected and unavailable to anyone but friends and family.

      Long ago I realized that anything I put online, whether in email or on a site, may someday be made public. As a result I am very careful, even on this site, about what I post since I do not want anyone to see me in my skivvies. (And I don’t think anyone else wants to see that either!)

      BTW my wife just asked me if I had come clean about the fact that I keep blogs because I like an audience. I won’t deny it. 😉 After all, thinking out loud is much more effective if there is someone else to hear it and respond.

      • Robin2go

        I, too, love the metaphor about putting on different clothes for different situations. That might well be the best way to describe how I look at identity — online as well as in person — because it makes it so easy to understand how it changes (or perhaps more correctly, how we change ourselves). It resonates well with me. Now I feel compelled to fracture this conversation a bit more and write a post of my own thoughts about this topic. And while I did not start blogging in order to gain an audience so much as to clarify my thought process, I must admit now that it is that interaction with others that really provides the true value to my thoughts.

        Thank you for expanding this conversation!

  • Alan Levine

    I think the powerful point is *we* can make these choices as to our online representation; we can be one entity, one handle, or we can be two, or three, or twenty-two. We can be who we are, or we can be someone else or someone imagined.

    Before the web, most of these choices were made for us by The System.

    It seems quite profound to me.

    • Chris Brady Post author

      Alan, it is true that the net does allow us to offer various presentations of ourselves, although I would argue that we should NOT do this in such a way that we are MISrepresenting ourselves, e.g., the case of Raphael Golb.

      Your phrasing is curious, however. What is “The System” the forces such choices upon us? Reality?

  • Steve Brady

    Interesting. Chris and I have talked about this before, and there are many echoes here of past conversations.

    I too like the idea of work clothes, and honestly, one could extend it to include different work clothes for different tasks. Or, from my background, different uniforms. There was the BDU (cammies) for more utility or warfighting activities, the “blues” for office work, and of course, the service dress for formal functions. But I continue perhaps too far down this path…

    I have three blogs/web presences. I have a “professional” service one where I am focused on Supply Chain and Logistics issues. That is the main address, and the one I even use for my (non-Penn State) email. You can see that at . I then have a more “catch all” blog (the first one I ever had, actually) where I put my more broad thinking posts. Politics. Tech. Recipes for Crepes. It’s all there at and then finally, I have the one I do with my son, where we focus more on the things in our lives together (and mostly focused on him. That’s aptly named “” because we were originally not only blogging but podcasting as well.

    My approach was not so much to have separate “identities” but rather to have venues that were appropriate for the topics at hand. In part I was thinking about the audience. The readers/listeners at the more professional site would have little interest in my personal life. And we found that people listening/reading at the Father and Sons Chat were interested in those activities, and not some of my other ramblings. That said, my Professor Notes does serve the role as “catch all” and in that blog I am less concerned with my audience than I am with just sharing “thoughts.”

    That said, I have felt that, regardless of my “online attire” it was never appropriate to be “in my PJs.” For me, that meant I protected the identity of my kids (perhaps overly so) until they were old enough to be part of that decision–and I erred on the side of over protective. For a long time, we would mention our first names, but when we were just running our two blogs I kept our last name unmentioned. (Not ‘hidden’ just not shared.)

    I have generally moderated my posts at all sites. I have at times written posts where the ideas might offend or challenge, but I have worked hard to not write anything that would cause one to ignore the message because of the words. Sometimes I have failed, but maintaining public decorum has always been a concern.

    Anyway, my thoughts.