I was talking to a friend about how much she loves the welcoming (and/or closing) receptions at conferences. She is the kind of person who will hunt down a person with similar research interests at the reception and start up a conversation. I am not that person. I am the person that only goes to the reception if a friend or colleague specifically asks if I am going and I can’t think of a quick excuse not to. I don’t particularly like networking. It’s kind of a problem, professionally speaking. People who know me are often surprised to hear this. “You are so outgoing and talkative!!” they say. That’s because they know me. I like talking to the people I already know!
I recently assigned an article in class (Valkenburg, 2009) in which the author discusses the appeal of asynchronous, anonymous, and accessible communication. In response, a student commented with delight that introverts can be extroverts online. This week, I’ve thought about the personal relevance of this statement. Can I be more extroverted online? If my #vandr map is any indication, I have my doubts. I behave on social media sites the same way I behave at conference receptions: often skip out, maybe put in a brief appearance, only talk to people I already know, listen and observe without much comment. I’m sure it’s possible to be a somewhat different version of yourself online, but it’s clearly not my natural inclination and may require some concerted effort.
This brings me back to my initial reaction to the readings on digital identity. In my developmental psychology courses, we talk a lot about identity development; how it works, what it is, what happens if you don’t have one, etc. How is adolescent identity development going to be influenced by their increasing immersion in social media? Are adolescents able to move more fluidly between their online and offline identities than adults? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
I could explore this idea more, but I have to go plan a conference trip, during which I will likely skip the reception. But, I will also look up some of the speakers and participants and follow them on twitter. Maybe I will even comment on one of their posts. #babysteps