When Incubator was in its infancy, I was hesitant to open myself to the “world” and initially restricted its access.  After a few weeks, I decided to remove this “barrier” and it, along with Territories, have remained “open” ever since.

The second tier of openness focused on the books I was reading at the time.  Many were interpersonal in nature and several were admittedly “taboo” in a professional setting, ranging in topics from marriage “counseling”  to personality disorders.  Uncertain whether to include such texts in my published reading list, I consulted two colleagues who suggested that I either remove them completely or bundle them within an “interpersonal” section.

I always found this latter recommendation intriguing; did “bundling” somehow dilute or minimize what I was learning about at the time?  It’s as if this aspect of my life could somehow be packaged neatly in a box to focus greater attention on the “important” aspects of my Internet presence.  What is, of course, ironic is that this “box” was ultimately the catalyst for my electronic presence in the first place.

The third tier of openness focused on posts (essays?) that pushed the boundaries of what an online diary could look like, but never reaching that tipping point.  Or have I?

Now half-way through the book Alone Together, I am forced to reflect on where these online posts are heading and what value they are providing me.

While the “negative” examples focus heavily on the use of Facebook, the “positive” can be perhaps summarized by the following excerpt:

“In thinking about online life, it helps to distinguish between what psychologists call acting out and working through.  In acting out, you take the conflicts you have in the physical real and express them again and again in the virtual.  There is much repetition and little growth. In working through, you use the materials of online life to confront the conflicts of the real and search for new resolutions.

As originally intended, my online experience over the past two and a half years has been about the latter.  But what else is there to work through now?

One could argue that I’ll always have something to work through, and that writing will aid in my ability to successfully navigate through these challenges.  And given my success using this approach, I completely support this claim.

But what of narcissism?  The author introduces this personality trait through numerous examples of teenagers (and adults) who present themselves differently online than they do in real-life to ultimately make themselves look “larger” than they really are.  At its extreme, “friending” and texting allow one to “use” aspects of people void of a real relationship.  It’s this combination that leans in the direction of unhealthy narcissism.

I have tried to achieve a balance between presenting content that highlights my creative and thinking abilities (talent) with content that shows key aspects of my thought processes (who I am).  It’s a balance because the former supports a path to fulfilling employment opportunities and new challenges; the latter may not depending upon timing – i.e. what am I dealing with at the time?  Does the topic “fit” within a professional setting / review?  (The “interpersonal” reading list is a perfect example of this)

Perhaps the single reason for discontinuing is the realization of a new “norm.”

Years ago, I used to attend work meetings with a pad of paper and a pen.  Now, attending without use of a laptop or Blackberry is seen as “strange” and at worst, “misguided” (i.e. “Doesn’t he have work to do?”)  Everyone is busy, but at what exactly?  Even I am reluctant to have a conversation with my colleagues because I feel I am interrupting them.  But am I really?

In one extreme, these posts are a mimicry of these gatherings.  At face value, I am not really connecting with anyone other than myself.  While self-discovery is an obvious positive outcome, to continue down this path would risk reinforcing a new “norm” where deep feelings and thoughts are channeled into an online medium vs. to a real person (friend, girlfriend, wife).

While Territories was designed to move away from this path, the Alone Together text has further encouraged me to take a step back at my current journey and to ask “What is my long-term goal via this interaction model?” and “Is my life better because of it?”

Right now, I simply do not know.

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