Illustration of Derek Powazek by Adam Ellis

NaBloPoMo Q&A 2: Identities and Pants

Nikol Hasler, from the awesome Midwest Teen Sex Show, which is not what you think it is, asked:

Since so much of what you do has to do with a social network of screen names, could you discuss intelligent ways of speaking with all of these people while maintaining some sort of life? What is the easiest way to keep track of who you are talking to? I am also curious to know, how often do you get contacted by someone, speak with them for a while, then realize later that it is actually someone you have already heard of. Oh, and don’t you hate pants?

That last example happens all the time. I’ll be talking with someone at a conference or party, and only later will I realize I read their site all the time. It makes me want to force everyone to walk around wearing t-shirts with screenshots of their sites on them.

Without ever talking about it, Heather came up with a clever mind hack for this kind of problem. She appends usernames or domain names as last names for people with naming collisions. So when she says Claire Loobylu, I know she’s talking about an extremely talented illustrator in Australia and not her dear sister Claire.

Our friend Kevin Meredith goes by LomoKev in Flickr. A while back, he decided to change his username. I found the change so disconcerting, I razzed him about it when I saw him. He told me everyone was giving him a hard time. After a couple weeks, he changed it back.

It’s strange, this digital intimacy we share. If you make stuff online that I like, we have a relationship, even though you don’t know who I am. I suppose this is the kind of thing that artists and writers have long dealt with. But now that we all have our own audiences, we all get to be known in our own small circles, with good and bad repercussions.

I’m glad there are a few people out there that have enjoyed my work on the web. I think every artist/writer craves that acknowledgment. And it amuses me that I may exist as “Derek Fray” in a couple brains out there. But there is a dark side. I’ve received icky email. I’ve bumped into people in person who have made me uncomfortable with all they know about me – all I voluntarily disclosed, I know – there are just some ways of connecting that are creepier than others.

As with all things, I think the difference between a pleasant hello and a creepy stalking is in the presentation. The thing is, we’ve only been in the era of the net-enabled micro-celebrity for about 10 years. Our parents never had to wonder how to approach a person who’s blog they liked. They never had to choose whether they’d “friend” someone or thank them for the “add.” These are new social situations, and we’ll figure them out eventually. We just haven’t yet.

Oh, and pants? The only good pants are damp pants.

Thanks for the question, Nikol! Who else has one?

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Hi, I’m Derek. I used to make websites. Now I grow flowers and know things. I’m mostly harmless. More.