‘Networked’ is a word I’ve been fairly obsessed with lately. Maybe it’s because I started reading “It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens” over winter break, and spend a lot of time in networked learning environments.

It’s also because I spend hours poring over thoughts about my own emerging networks in a time where opting out is less of an option if you’re interested in engaging in friendships, work, activism or whatever you conceive of as “public life.”

Digital space has been a world in which I alternately overshared and undershared throughout the years. I’m from the Livejournal generation, the same cohort that had some of the first AIM screen names and Facebook profiles gated into a students-only community. One of the most beautiful elements of that partially networked time was the freedom it gave for experiments. Yes, we had maybe half an hour at a time before our dial-up connections timed out, but we rarely used our real names. We communicated under a series of handles that varied according to the network, what music we were into at the time or the fact that we got bored with our previous handle. We had that blank space, the absence of strategy.

Now that being online is ubiquitous and “You’ve Got Mail” is in part a hilarious collection of outdated references [that vintage website is precious, by the way], we have to draw our own barriers around our digital spaces, just enough to say “this is me,” not too much as to open up sensitive parts of our identities (like gender, race, etc, etc.) to harm.

Now that we are in a sense cyber-beings with personal lives, personal beliefs, and jobs, what was once a canvas for self-expression (although never without some self-censorship) is an arena where strategy is not optional, where we’re not “escaping” from our “real-life” identities but commenting in their margins. There are questions that keep me up at night. I want to be recognized and to contribute in a meaningful way, to build a career and artistic identity … but also to protect my safety.

While we can debate the effectiveness it may have, Facebook’s suicide prevention effort clearly shows that there is more of a need than ever to address the intersection of our “human” needs and our networked existence. I can only hope for (and hopefully, aid the creation of) a series of networks that takes the complex, the messy, the “real” seriously.

TL;DR (and what I originally meant to say): I’m learning about media strategy, but I don’t have a clear one. For many reasons, this is a good thing.


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