Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Breaking Boundaries 2.0

I’ve been active on various social networks for many years now. My favorite network has been Twitter, which started as a place where I interacted mostly with other bloggers and feminists. We talked theory, live-tweeted conferences, and debated politics. As more and more people I knew in real life started joining Twitter, I interacted with them on a more personal level. I engaged with my Twitter followers differently, from political types I know only online, to feminists I’ve met because of my online presence, and friends I hardly ever interact with online.

In the last few weeks, I’ve noticed that these lines are starting to blur. People I know in real life have stumbled onto the profiles of some online acquaintances and they’re becoming buddies. I can’t say I’m completely surprised, because that’s how social networking works, after all – you tap into a network of like-minded individuals and make connections with them.

When I first realized this was happening, I have to admit I got a bit freaked out. I share things with online friends that the people I know in real life don’t really understand about me. It’s not that I expect the world to suddenly collapse because these boundaries are being crossed, but it does make me more aware of how I’ve structured these boundaries in the first place. Just this past weekend, I spoke on a panel about social media and when we were asked about having multiple online identities, I confessed that this is something I struggle with myself. We all came to the conclusion that this is an ongoing challenge without any clear answer.

But I have to say that, more than anything else, seeing these groups of people interact is proving to me what I’ve always expected and told people: social networking is a great way to build relationships. And, in some ways, seeing these groups interact lets go of some of the pressure to keep the worlds apart. At the very least, it means I know really cool people who find each other cool as well.

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