Stalking My Former Self

Reading about social networks and online identities has gotten me curious about what insights might emerge from examining my old profiles from high school. When I was 15-18, I maintained profiles on Xanga and MySpace, which were left dormant at various points in the lonely avenues of abandoned cyberspace. Because everything online is permanent, I am able to cull through my old profiles like an architectural dig and remember what kind of online identity I was trying to shape back then (and how true it is to who I am today).

Let’s start with my MySpace profile. An important contextual element: I joined MySpace when I was 16 because the boy I liked (who would become my first boyfriend ever…and second and third, because apparently I didn’t know when enough was enough!) was on MySpace, and I wanted to flirt with him. When I first wrote my profile, I was crafting every sentence for an audience of one: I wanted that boy to like me, so I emphasized the parts of myself that I knew he would be drawn to (my sense of humor, my political savvy, and a put-on sense of ease, etc). While appealing to the tastes of a suitor is kind of Courtship 101 (at least in the mind of a high schooler who only has tv shows as a reference for how to go about these things), there is no doubt that a lot of the construction of this particular identity hinged on getting the attention of a “certain someone”. This reminds me of the  Danah Boyd, in The Networked Self, points out that many friendships that are confirmed in social networking environments are for political reasons. While an individual might rather avoid close ties with a person online, they associate with a certain person because it is the socially acceptable thing to do. Similarly, I think all content generated on profiles is, to an extent, political and filtered through the author’s perception of audience reaction. My profile being shaped to get the attention of my crush was political and calculated (or maybe just teenage desperation).

My xanga account was a collaboration between me and my best friend. We decided to make blogs to keep in touch with each other in high school (or…something….) and we made funny “About Me” sections and wrote ridiculous notes back and forth on these sites. If I remember correctly, we also desperately wanted to get the attention of a mutual crush (code named “Green Tea,” who makes star appearances in my posts…) and this was an effort to make a public but secret declaration of love. (15 year olds are weird. as. hell.) If you are curious, check it out.

I definitly think my xanga account is a representation of my relationship with my best friend, and a ridiculously fun reminder of what I was like as a freshman in high school. I’m surprised by how much I have changed (I no longer troll the local pool for cute guys), and I barely remember what half the inside jokes were between me and my friend. At the same time, I see how I reacted to problems then and now is similar, and how I wrote in journals then is surprisingly consistent with my current tendencies. This site– maybe all like it–serves as an archive of a certain moment in my development, and also an archive of how much and how little we change.

Now, I’ve made this site, a representation of my professional. academic, and sometimes personal self. I am proud of how far I have come, as a self-assured woman; as a writer; and as a savvy navigator of digital technology. This site has been cultivated intentionally, not to get a boy to like me but to share my ideas with the world.

To be continued…