Who We Are Online, Who We Are Offline, How They’re Different and How They’re the Same

Over on Facebook, a person who claims to have met and interacted with me (and he may have! I meet and interact with a lot of people) suggests that he wouldn’t want to associate with me because, among other things, there’s a difference between how I present myself online and how I present myself offline, which this fellow takes to mean that I say things here, that I wouldn’t say there. Which means, apparently, that I’m false/dissembling/a coward and so on.

This is interesting to me! I have thoughts on this! I am going to share them with you now!

One: Of course, and I think obviously, people who don’t want to associate with me should not associate with me. Whatever reason you have for not wanting to associate with me — including having no reason at all! — is perfectly acceptable. It’s your life, and life is too short to associate with people with whom you have no desire to spend time, even if that person is me. Maybe I’ll be sad about that, if you are someone I like or admire or thought I might one day like to get to know. But I’ll just have to be sad about that. If you don’t want to associate with me, I celebrate your choice. Go! Be associative with others who are not me.

Two: Also of course I am quite happy to say in the offline world the things that I say when I am online — in point of fact I do that all the time, because frequently, in both public and private conversation, people want to talk to me about things I’ve said online. Why? Well, for one thing, that’s how a lot of people know me, either through this blog or through my various social media presences. So naturally that’s going to be an entryway for actual conversation, or, when I’m doing a public event, a way for people to get me to further expound on a subject. I’m frequently saying offline what I’ve said online. It’s actually quite common.

Three: But what I suspect this fellow means is that I wouldn’t say negative things I might say about someone online to their face offline. For example, upon meeting, say, Ted Cruz, I wouldn’t, to his face, call him “a jowly gobbet of tubercular phlegm,” or “a necrotic self-regarding blight on the face of American politics,” which are things I’ve called him here. And here’s the truth of it: If, in fact, circumstances required that I had to meet Senator Cruz, and I couldn’t get out of it by saying “I’d prefer not to meet him” or alternately by faking a massive head injury, when the moment came that I was required to speak with him, I would say, “Hello, Senator,” and try to keep it to that. But if Cruz then said to me, “Hey, aren’t you the fellow who called me ‘an odious fistula that walks the earth in a human skin?’ I would say, ‘Why, yes, Senator Cruz. Indeed, I called you just that thing.'”

But I wouldn’t lead with it, because, you know. I’m not that kind of asshole. Unless I am specifically and affirmatively going to meet someone with the intent of telling them how much I dislike or oppose them — which is very rare, because there’s usually something better to do — I’m happy to be courteous and civil with the people that I disagree with or have arguments with, online or off. Why not? It’ll let everyone get through the day without being pissed off (more). And, here’s the thing — if someone I’ve had arguments with online shows civility and courtesy to me offline, in the world, good for them. Rather than chalk it up to cowardice or hypocrisy, I’m going to give them credit for understanding that context has a bearing on discourse. It doesn’t mean I forget the things they’ve said about me, or the things I might have said about them. It does mean we both understand that going after each other with hammers in one medium does not necessitate all hammers, all the time. You get credit in my book if you understand that.

(“But Scalzi,” you might say. “Aren’t you the one that says that the person who is an asshole online and polite offline is still an asshole?” Yes! Yes, I did. That goes for me as well — if your opinion of my online presentation is “what an asshole,” then no matter what you think of my offline public presentation, it’s perfectly valid for you to continue to have “asshole” as part of the foundation of your opinion of me. I’m okay with you thinking I’m an asshole. But in public, in the real world, I do try to be a decently socialized asshole.)

Be that as it may, if you’re determined to have me say to your face what I wrote about you online, then yes, in fact, I will absolutely say it to you, to your face. Why wouldn’t I? I wouldn’t have written it if I didn’t mean it — or at least, didn’t mean it at the time. It’s possible that over time I might have changed my opinion, and if that’s the case, I’d say that too. And if in time I decided that what I said was wrong, I would apologize, to you, to your face! (Yes, I’ve done that before.) But if I wrote something about you, and it still stood, and you asked me to repeat it to you, to your face, then, yup, that’ll happen.

Four: I should note that for my own self I don’t go out asking the people who say horrible things about me online to repeat them to my face. First, why would I willingly want to spend any time with people who say horrible things about me? I’m 47, man. More years behind than ahead. I endeavor to spend that time with people who actually like me. Second, in the cases where I am in the same space as they are for whatever reason, I generally try not to be the one determined to drop a turd in the punch bowl. Third, I don’t automatically assume that just because someone appears entirely jerky to me online, they will be the same way offline, because, again, most people understand context and are socialized, and who knows? Maybe we’ll get along otherwise. It’s happened before! Fourth, running around being an exposed nerve all the time is tiring. And fifth, generally speaking, people are entitled to their opinion of me, even if it’s not a nice one.

Five: This person who says he won’t associate with me rather proudly asserts his presentation is the same online or off. He seems to think this is a virtue, which is his right. I think it suggests an unsophisticated understanding of how people present themselves in the world, online and off, and how we tune ourselves for different contexts and different purposes. My online presentation, as I’ve noted numerous times, is a version of me tuned for performance — I’m usually telling you what I think, in a hopefully entertaining way. It’s me, but it’s me in a way designed for a specific declamatory purpose. If I used the same version of me in one-on-one conversation, it’d be fucking awful. The version of me for that context is tuned very differently — again, still me, but in a context that’s not all about me.

I have different modes: One for when I’m doing public events, one for when I’m at home with family, one for conversation with friends, one for meeting strangers one on one, one for when I’m collaborating with people on work, and so on. I don’t think this is a particular revelation for anyone, in no small part because I talk about it as a thing I do, but also because pretty much everyone does it; everyone presents differently in different circumstances. I suspect this fellow who maintains he’s the same online and offline is wrong about that, but if he’s not, then he’s a rare individual who perhaps should be studied by sociologists.

The larger point here is that it’s not (necessarily) insincere or bad if your presentation in one medium varies from your presentation in another. Certainly one can have a presentation of self that is false or hypocritical, or have such a wide variance between one presentation and the other that it gives the appearance of either (or both). But there’s a ways to go before you get to that point. I don’t tend to think my presentation in any circumstance is false, although I admit ego and self-interest keeps me from being a perfect observer of me (and sometimes I will willingly lie to people if I think it’s in my interest to do so. Hello, I’m a human and that means I’m complicated). But generally speaking, however I tune me ends up being me. I think this fellow who apparently doesn’t tune himself to circumstances may be making life unduly harder on himself.

Six: There certainly are people I wouldn’t associate with willingly but generally speaking I don’t make a public spectacle out of it. I just… don’t meet them. It’s a big world and one can do a pretty good job of avoiding people if one likes. One can even be at the same convention or in the same building or even at the same party and still do a good job of not spending time with people if one wants. Likewise, I have a (very) small list of people who, if they went out of their way to get into my face, I would tell them to fuck right off. The list is small because a) most people, like me, tend to avoid people they don’t want to associate with, b) my life is good and part of the reason it’s good is that generally I don’t let the assholes get to me. But it’s also small because, again, most people are reasonably socialized and can be polite to each other, even if they’re otherwise at odds. Civility! It can happen.

Seven: To sum up: I totally will in fact say to your face what I say online, but I’m also happy not to unless you decide to make a thing out of it. I suspect most people are that way, and that’s not a bad thing. Also, go ahead and avoid me if you must, I’m cool with that.


93 thoughts on “Who We Are Online, Who We Are Offline, How They’re Different and How They’re the Same

  1. Allow me to be the first to note that a) this entry is specifically about my own experiences in the context of me being who I am in various social contexts, and that your experiences can/will be different than mine; b) the interactions here are meant to describe voluntary ones and not ones where someone is being harassing, etc. Someone seeking out someone with the intention to harass or harm them, or having to deal with someone you suspect intends to do so, is an entirely different kettle of fish, as they say.

    Also, I mention this person on Facebook very generally, as I don’t want people to bother him. That’s a hint. If you do go out of your way to find this fellow, be polite to him, please. I never want people to be an asshole in my name (I left him a note over there, and mentioned some points I bring up here; I won’t be back, as he’s made it clear he chooses not to associate with me).

  2. I’ve met people who claim to present the same face in all contexts before. They are A: almost always mistaken. B: Almost always insufferably tedious people. And C: usually the sort of person who is very worried about how other people see them while loudly proclaiming that they aren’t.

  3. The line about walking around as an exposed nerve made me laugh out loud for real. It’s true.

    There’s a quote somewhere by someone that is something along the lines of: “Being nice to someone you hate is not hypocritical. It just means you’re mature enough to not make a scene in public.”

    I’ve always tried to live by that. I might disagree vehemently with someone online and think they’re too stupid to breathe, but if I meed them in person I don’t need to create a scene about it. A polite “hello/goodbye” and move on is all that’s required.

  4. I think this is fascinating. I know folks who, online and in person, are pretty much the same. However, I have mostly assumed (ahh, we know where that gets us!) that they are presenting a persona–the same persona–in both, and if I knew them well, I would know that the persona is not all of them. The persona is an extension of them, or a magnification of a part of them that is particularly useful. I’m an extrovert, and I like extrovert things: talking to people, hanging out with people, meeting new people, whatever. As much as I enjoy it, and as much as it is absolutely me, it is also tiring and I’m not the same at home with my close friends and family.

    But I don’t find the “inconsistency” of online/in person that noteworthy, and certainly nothing to be angry about (barring absolute hypocrisy). It’s like using your indoor and outdoor voice.

  5. I spend a lot of time on Facebook. I’m of the age where I was taught that the written language is actually different from the spoken language. I’m far more witty, incisive, reflective, sarcastic, and unforgiving of fools in the written medium because I have the time to be (barring those times when I get so het up I fire off a missive without much editing, but even then the way I respond is different than how I would respond in an oral argument). With that said I feel like I express the “me-er” parts of me online, again because I have the time to really articulate what I think.
    But I have what we used to call “good home trainin’ ” so no, I would not bump into someone in public & lead with what I’d said about them online. If I’ve gotten to the point of “calling you outcho name”, I’m probably also going out of my way not to be on the same space as you IRL cuz why would I want to be around you? Generally my online rants that are directed at people I know is for their willful racist anti-logic cognitive dissonance & all the mental hoops they jump through to maintain it, so yeah I generally then cut those people out of my meatspace life.

  6. You sound a wee bit self righteous here, to me, but my hubby loves your personna, blogs and books. From what I hear from him you do not give him the time of day or a response to his entries on your blog so when we see you in person you will never know how hurt he is. He can be self righteous too.

  7. I teach middle school. Twelve year olds still struggle a bit with learning context appropriate behavior, but they get that it’s a thing that you can do: in some social situations you’ll behave differently than in others, and that difference is appropriate.

    It sounds like your interactee never really made it that far in their education.

  8. God no (atheist here.. note the identity) I’m not always the same in person that I am online. Nor do I expect others to be the same. Online gives us a space to vent the things we think. real world.. we understand that there are rules and those rules keep us from killing off the species Homo Sapiens.

    In the past I’ve had online interactions with my Senators at the time, Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham. Of the two, I’d rather discuss my displeasure with Senator Graham. Senator DeMint is basically a FUCK YOU COMMIE! kinda guy where Senator Graham has been a “We disagree but thanks for you input” kinda guy. Sure, at the end of it all, both said the same thing, but one is a bit more palatable. Also, Sen. Graham has used a lot of snark that my family would have approved of.

  9. I’ve seen you interact with people at a convention – with folks you hadn’t previously met, I mean, not with longtime friends – and to be honest, you came across pretty similarly in that context to the way you do here. I found you to be funny, engaging, an excellent wordsmith, and very, very good at giving a total stranger about 30 seconds of your attention and leaving them (ok, me) feeling ten feet tall with squeeful excitement.

    Would I expect you to interact the same way within your own social circle, or with work colleagues, or with family? Of course not. You engage with them very, very differently than you would with a stranger, whether that stranger is waiting in a signing line at WorldCon or commenting on your blog. I’d frankly be a little creeped out if you reacted to a complete stranger the same way you would to your closest friend.

    Oh, and that thing about not walking around as an exposed nerve – that’s what I’d call being a grownup. Or being Midwestern. Either way, I see it as a positive feature rather than otherwise.

  10. I find it strange to even begin to think of myself as someone who has one, and one only, way of reacting to other people; context matters. If I’m wandering around the supermarket trying to remember what I need to buy, I am very definitely not the same person as the me who is drinking a cocktail on board ship in the Aegean, nor the person who will be scrambling around a hot and dusty archaeological site the following day.

    Trying to present all the different versions of me as if they were identical seems an exercise in futility; I suspect that the suggestion that there is only a fixed personality stems from the belief that it has to be this way in order to be ‘genuine’. To which my response is that I am genuinely all the different ways I react to others; context matters…

  11. The method of interaction changes the context, as well. On Twitter or other social media, you usually don’t know someone exists until they say, for example, “@scalzi Your books stink and you’re a hack.” That is your very first indication that that particular person exists, and already they’ve outed themselves as someone antagonistic (or the converse, “@scalzi I love your work!” outs them as someone positive). The history of things they’ve said is there for you to read and get a quick understanding of what kind of person they are, or at least how they present themselves. It’s very easy to then approach them within that context.

    In reality? You don’t have that meta-knowledge. Unless a douchecanoe boldly walks up to you and says “Your books are trash,” you don’t know who they are or what they think And if they choose not to make a scene (*cough* presenting differently *cough*), then you have no way of knowing. Unless you yourself are a raging asshole, you’re not going to lead with being a mocking jerk, you’re going to go for polite neutrality until you get a better sense of who they are.

    In other words, socialization. Which some people desperately need more of.

  12. I’m me, pretty much in person or online the same basic model. I don’t consider that a virtue or a flaw. It’s just easier on me to be me By nature, I tend to be polite most of the time. Some people mistakenly think that makes me “nice”. I’m not “nice” or “mean”. My behavior varies with the weather and how I feel, with how people behave in general and also how they treat me specifically. I’m actually more inclined to let slights directed at me pass than I am to ignore egregiously abusive treatment of others. I seriously doubt anyone can say anything to me at this point in my life that’s worse than what I heard in the first 12 years of my life, when I was a whole lot more vulnerable than I am now.

    The main difference (and this touches on much of what you say here) is that I’m much more inclined to let more of me show through when I’m with people who are close to me, particularly those I love. As an example, I tend not to use profanity around people I don’t know. Around my brothers or when I’m by myself, I’m less restrained and if it’s called for, I cuss like a sailor who used to be a longshoreman. I suspect it’s normal for people to keep facets of their personality either under wraps or on display depending on who they’re with at the time.

    I’ll go back to the corner now.

  13. A while back my company was being sued by the owner of another company. He’s on the east coast, I’m on the west; but I met him when my lawyer and I went to depose him (as in “get his deposition” — I’m not a lawyer so I may be using that verb incorrectly). To my surprise when I met him he offered his hand and I shook it. Mostly reflex, but like our host said, I don’t go out of my way to be an asshole… life’s too short. I ran into him later at another deposition months later… by this time it was clear his case was weaker than he thought. No hand was offered by either of us but basic civility remained. Upshot: no fists we’re thrown, my company won the case, and we made a bunch of lawyers wealthy.

  14. Well, yes. I’m not even the same person offline today and yesterday. Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis, and sometimes pretty damn quickly.

  15. But, to the above . . . I tend to not socialize to the point of actively avoiding it (bad for my publishing efforts, I hear). Anyone who says they would rather not associate with or meet me in person is OK in my book. Unfortunately, I tend to have the opposite problem and then I have to end up being the antisocial jerk.

    But, that begs the question . . . why so much time addressing the comment of one individual?

  16. Many writers (and public speakers) are often amazed at what readers (or, hearers) understood from any specific output. The readers bring themselves (their own id, with all of its experience and outlook) to the reading, and that can color the writer as good, bad, or ugly without ever really knowing them.

    In public speaking, sometimes someone tells me they appreciate it when I said “X,” or that they resented that I said “Y,” and I only recall briefly mentioning “Z.” Those things are what they chose to hear, not what was actually said. I still just say “Thanks,” or “I’m sorry.”

    Sometimes, through writing, others perceive me as merely a wingnut, which I embrace. But my willingness to go “inappropriate” creeps others out, as if I frighten them by how personal my blather can become on such short notice.

    I’m literally one of those kind of people that blurts out the silliest things just for the goal of being inane. Then when a dear friend needs comfort, I’ll cry with them and hug them and the goal changes to caring.

    The differences are in perception and context. You, Mr. Scalzi, I only know from your writing, and presume no other relationship than that. So, if you seem like an extremely intelligent, erudite, eloquent communicator with a mean streak of ego … that doesn’t mean a thing. I’m still not your friend, and still do not claim to know you.

    Why would anyone think they can judge someone’s character without ever really being in their presence over a goodly period of time? Ah well … baffled rant of the day accomplished. I feel pretty good right now.

    Thank you for your time, and please enjoy this moment of whimsy as my gift of appreciation.


  17. My father-in-law loves to forward a lot of political bullshit that one can prove false with a quick web search, and I often send replies back to everyone he’s forwarded it to, pointing out that it is false, and that he is lazy or stupid (or both) for believing in this garbage every single time and that he’s a xenophobic racist religious bigot for forwarding them. When we’re together in person, we hardly ever discuss politics, which is fine with me. Am I a hypocrite for not wanting to get start a conversation that targets our disagreements with each other? I don’t think so. Life is too short to be angry all the time.

  18. Well put. Of course everyone acts differently in different scenarios. I mean people don’t behave the same around their friends as around their parents, let alone vs strangers, extended family, and the massive realm of things that encompass online vs off! It’s not remotely hypocritical to behave in a manner appropriate to a situation. What is hypocritical, is putting up a facade in situations, playing an actual role. Which is an entirely different situation!

    I actually have an ex who was so concerned about how people perceived him that he would play a part for everyone he was around, his whole accent and demeanor would change to suit the company. I don’t think he was even consciously aware of his doing it, but it drove me nuts. Pretty sure that isn’t what you do!

  19. Pretty funny. I think most people come off as more extreme on line, either positive or negative. I do wonder about people who seem to enjoy being a negative troll to just piss people off (that’s not you, John). They can’t have a very pleasant life, because that hate comes from somewhere inside.

    I try to be self consistent, and like you John, I am willing to say the same thing to someone’s face that I would say on line. That said, I don’t go out of my way to be a jerk or anything, it’s just not me. Though I have had some people call me an asshole (or some other negative) when they disagree with me or when I don’t do what they want, just because they want it; because I am fairly firm in my convictions.

    There is a down side to being considered nice and polite. Some people feel that indicates that I am weak. Then they get angry when it turns out that I am not weak: they cry “unfair”, like I tricked them.

  20. Back at the dawn of time when I took a sociology class, one of the required texts was The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life by, I think, the Games People Play author (Berne?)(because I’m listening to Callas arias right now and I have many tabs open, and if I’m wrong, I’m wrong), and it is possible your Facebook correspondent never came across that book.

    (I have been in the same room with you twice, but there were a hundred or so people between us ;-) so I’ve no idea of your personal presentation except that you are quite funny.)

    But yes: I am a helluvalot better edited on line than I am in real life.

  21. @jw3cords – um what?

    Popular author who often gets hundreds of responses on a blog post doesn’t respond to my husband or even acknowledge his participation on his popular blog so he’s going to be deeply hurt and I’m going to consider said author an asshole and go out of my way to tell him both things.

    I mean … really?

  22. A thought: I became the person I now mostly am offline by first learning to be that person, give or take some context-related details, online. Such a big change, so quickly, would never have been possible offline: offline, people have prior expectations, and one lives up, or down, to them. Offline, too much change, or even openness, may not be adequately safe, and is easily sabotaged.

    Happily, the evidence is that I learnt to be a much more likeable and assertive and generally sane person online. (Likeable and assertive were, surprisingly, intertwined qualities.)

    Plural self-presentations can allow people to be liars and gits, but can also allow growth and empathy. For some reason, that phenomenon, which I see all the time, is seldom commented on.

  23. It just seems a really odd thing to declare to you on a FB comment. Granted I’ve met you now a few times and have had a chance to see you in a more relaxed, not on panels just hanging out with friends context (at this year’s Wiscon) but people who make those kinds of declarations raise red flags. What is it they wanted you to say or do? Was it an attempt at a gotcha moment?

    As for me, I’m the same off and online, and most people understand that. Those that don’t, well I just leave them where I found them.

  24. Not been my experience. When you appeared in the Brookline Booksmith to talk about “Lock In,” you graciously autographed my copy and we had a brief conversation about Nina Kiriki Hoffman, whom we agreed was a great person and fabulous writer. You’d say that here with the blink of an eye.

  25. Seems to me that the Facebook commenter has a very skewed view of themselves and the universe. We all have different presentations of ourselves, even in our quiet moments alone. For that person to believe he/she is 100% consistent at all times and expect the same of others is to willfully discard the incontrovertible evidence one is exposed to by simply existing in this plane of reality.

  26. Very much on the mark about different “tunings” for different contexts. In the writing and editing groups I used to be a major part of, the me you saw was the me I very much wanted to be when we’re face to face — but because I had time to think out what I was saying and self-edit, it was a very much better-presented me than in-person me. Still, it gave me something to live up to, and I got better at living up to that persona with practice. But that person was very context-specific, and wasn’t me the father or me the husband, though these were all clearly facets of the same person.

    As for the well socialized part, amen to that too. Life’s too short to go around insulting everyone we don’t like, and it tends to eat away at the social contract that binds us into a largely peaceful society. As Wilde noted, “a gentleman never unintentionally gives offense”. You’re a consummate gentleman, John. Keep on exemplifying the Wildean ideal, even if your style of humor is from an entirely different orbit.

  27. Loved Kara’s “Wins the internets today” attribution line, ‘There’s a quote somewhere by someone that is something along the lines of: ” Saved for future use.

  28. So basically this person said, “you know me tangentially and I don’t like you, so I will announce to the world some specious and insulting reasoning for not interacting with you, so there!” What’s the motivation there? So that you will feel somehow deprived of his/her company? Unless they are a treasured friend you would be losing, nope. That you will be lonely in your isolation? Seems unlikely, given that you have more than sufficient of people who would love to interact with you. So that they will somehow appear to be principled and righteous in their associations? To whom? Just who were they trying to impress with their rejection of a popular author/blogger?

    Clearly the simplest solution to not wanting to interact with you is to just not interact with you, minus the public announcement. I suspect that presentation of self is more a problematic issue for this person than for you. His/her presentation of self seems to need approval or attention from others.

    Sucks to be them. I have only pity for them. You will be okay.

  29. jw3cords: Your husband is not “owed” a response. I would assume that your offline persona is not quite as entitled as this makes you sound. Mine is not as quick to call someone out…

  30. That’s a problem with written communication versus personal interaction – sometimes humorous intent gets lost in writing.

    Maybe that accentuates the points you so aptly made.

  31. Well, of course your presentation varies according to whether you’re online or off-line. Context matters.

    I’m much more articulate online than I am off-line – mostly because online you’re seeing an edited version of my presentation most of the time. Some of the editing is contextually necessary (the physical component of who I am and how I present myself is a bit hard to get across in a largely textual medium), some of it is voluntary and deliberate (I do involve myself in a certain amount of deliberate choice about how I present myself, what I say, how I say it, etc – I prefer not to make a fool of myself in public if I can avoid it), but it’s all editing none the less. There’s also the wonderful little quirk that off-line, I’m subject to a form of aphasia where I can and do literally “lose words” – which can make me seem inarticulate at times in person. Online, because I’m able to edit what I present and deliberately present my most articulate self, that doesn’t come across.

    One very obvious thing which doesn’t come across in my online persona is my accent – this is part of why I keep reminding people I’m Australian all the time. Were you conversing with me face to face, you’d be reminded by my Strine accent – I’m not quite at “Pauline Hanson” levels, although depending on how hard I’m trying, I can get close at times – but online, it’s easy to get to hear people in the accent you’re used to in your own head. (Just for the record, you all sound “standard received newsreader Australian” to me). So I wonder whether at least a part of this guy’s perceived “difference” between Mr Scalzi’s online and off-line personae is simply a case of “you don’t sound right!” (where “right” in this case means “like the voice I have for you in my head”).

  32. tl, dr: Scalzi is human, often acts like a human. Oh, it was much more interesting than that, but doesn’t everyone have little idiosyncrasies that creep in depending on who they are interacting with? I talk to my boss one way, my kids another, my neighbors another, and post online comments still another way, but they are all variations of “me” (most obvious example, I swear less often in front of my boss and kids, and some of my neighbors who are religious).

  33. Number five–yes. I act differently for my boss, my employees, my family, my church. It’s called being an adult and having a mouth-brain filter and the knowledge of how to use the mouth-brain filter

  34. In a nutshell, you seem to be saying the world is complicated and how you react to depends on the circumstances. How unsurprising. I answer the phone in a professional voice, it’s how I was taught. It’s not how talk when I talk with friends. You and I have met at cons. You have always been pleasant and conversational. I suspect since this is a limited at con acquaintance, you would not actually know me from Adam. I wouldn’t expect you to. Keep on Trucking, all is good.

  35. I’ll say that the person who claimed you’re fake in this way is in fact like that themselves. I’m just taking a guess on that given most people try to imagine what someone else will do if they don’t really know them. They draw upon themselves as a basis for their conclusions. Sometimes.:)

  36. Code switching – it’s a thing. I wonder if this fellow wears the same clothing in Miami in August that he does in Greenland in December? That, too, is code switching. And it’s all done for the same reason – survival. The fact that some poor mistaken portions of society have decided that they should actively reject code-switching in order to (usually) present themselves as their least formal, least caring, most annoying selves at all times is really quite disheartening.

  37. I’ve met Scalzi a few times at cons or writing-adjacent things, and he seems just like his blog self there, only with better manners. NOT SO MUCH WITH THE CAPS and cussing! But blog Scalzi isn’t even quite the same as Twitter Scalzi. So there are at least 2 different online versions; I don’t follow FB or any other online thingie.

    People I’ve met who are mostly the same online and offline are inevitably one or more of the following: assholes, badly socialized, holier than thou, snobby, or just dull AF. But they’re not 100% the same. And the very very few people who ARE identical on and off are several of the previous list. And they’ve often also had mediocre personal hygiene, so there you are with a badly-socialized smelly asshole, which is worse than online. They are inevitably very angry, very sad, or both.

  38. Dear folks,

    I don’t know the backstory behind John’s reader, so I’m not going to speak to that. What John is talking about, though, is a very common phenomenon for anyone who is known by their writing. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a professional or fannish writer, whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction. In fact, it’s a well-known occurrence in our community from those dim dark distant days when most fannish communication was on paper (side note: in those times of yore, long distance phone calls were also particularly costly, so it really was paper).

    People’s writing persona and real-presence personas are rarely the same. More than once fans who have met face-to-face have been brought up short by how different the person they meet seems to be from the person they have been reading. I have played the role of both author and audience in those interactions. Even knowing, intellectually, that this happens, it is hard to avoid falling into the trap of unconsciously assuming that the image one constructs of a person from their writing will correspond to what they are like in real life.

    Sometimes that is true, or sufficiently close. Often it is not.

    It is an entirely normal thing and most authors are aware of it (although we may be helpless against occasionally falling into it ourselves).

    I can speak to the phenomenon from the author side. I’ve been a professional nonfiction writer for four decades. Most of what I write is what you’d call informative/instructional, even when they are opinion pieces. My natural writing style is relatively formal; I was raised on Standard Written English and a high-level college education didn’t do anything to discourage that inclination. Consequently, I don’t naturally write in as casual nor flippant a style as most people do.

    This has resulted in quite a few readers concluding that I am, by obvious nature, a stolid, stodgy, and rather humorless individual in person, maybe not quite the death of the party, but a wet blanket, to be sure.

    [Pause, while people who know me who had the misfortune to be drinking while reading this clean up their spit-takes.]

    I know this because I get quite a bit of the “Wow, I expected you to be so different, from your writing” when people meet me for the first time. Happily, it’s meant in a complimentary way. (I also imagine there are people who feel anything but complimentary about the difference, but, as John pointed out, the vast majority of people are civilized and so would not send me nasty e-mails. Also possibly because I do not suffer fools… at all.)

    Emphatically I say that this is not artifice on my part. My natural writing style is, well, professorial. My natural personal style, much sillier. I have a button that reads “Not even cleverly disguised as a responsible adult,” because, well, it is so often true and you should all be warned.

    It’s also possible to have constructed persona both in public and in writing. In recent years, I have been trying to write more, ummm, silly (sillily???) because it would make my perceived persona more congruent with my real one. People will perceive it as authentic but it is artifice. It is not what comes naturally to me in writing. I have to work at it (and not very well, I fear).

    Content also affects such misperceptions, not just style. I have a young fannish friend who a few years ago was thrilled to get to have lunch with George RR at a con. She told a group of us at dinner that what surprised her most was “how nice he was,” which made the rest of us all laugh. Unconsciously she had conflated George’s ability to be a complete sadist as god-writer with the person.

    John frequently writes about subjects that are contentious because, well, they are the subjects that are interesting. I’ll bet there are quite a few people out there who think that reflects his real-presence persona. They’d be entirely right… In the same way they’d be entirely right about me being a stodgy, humorless person.

    pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery http://ctein.com
    — Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

  39. I teach 8th grade. I am NOT the same in front of my students as I am with friends and family. I’m still blunt and honest, but with more of a filter. Likewise online. I have to monitor my online action much more now than before I started teaching because what I post online can impact my position as a teacher. We are held to a very high standard in all aspects of our lives, not just at school. However, when I’m at home with friends and family I definitely speak much more freely and openly. I’m the same person, just filtered for context and expectations.

  40. How is this even an issue?
    I expect you, when you are writing here, to be serious and well thought out, except when your not.
    I heard you MC at WorldCon, and shock of shocks, you were what I could assume to be your normal awesome self.

    I imagine if I were talk to you in person, you would be you. Unless you were having a bad day, and they you would be you.

  41. Jack Germond once said of Pat Buchanan that he was one of the few people would tell you the same thing on camera as off. Is there any better reason to hate him?

  42. As ctein noted above, this has been an issue (if indeed it is an issue) since long before the Internet existed, when all written communication was some form of ink on paper. I imagine H.L. Mencken used to meet people who were irrationally rankled that he didn’t speak exactly the way he wrote columns.

    Meeting Isaac Asimov in, say, 1970 was probably a bit jarring for any remotely attractive female fans of his science column.

    I’m not radically different online or off; I don’t state any opinions here I wouldn’t be willing to say out loud to someone. But I’ve always felt like a dullard in social situations. For one thing, many people will talk over one, and I’m not good at interrupting people. Whereas in the limitless electronic world we’re sharing, I can organize my thoughts and then put them down at length.

    If I ever reach a professional level where I’m attending conventions and meeting other writers, I hope not to be too disappointing in person.

  43. At first, I was apprehensive about meeting you in person because the online “you” came across to me as a super snarky person who revels in owning the conversation and always having the last word. And that’s not someone I enjoy speaking to. But instead I’ve very much enjoyed our conversations at cons and book signings! This concept of one’s online/offline persona is not new to me, but I find it’s something I still have to be aware of, especially as I interact with more and more coworkers and stakeholders entirely digitally.

  44. The larger point here is that it’s not (necessarily) insincere or bad if your presentation in one medium varies from your presentation in another.

    IME, those who have only one setting in all circumstances are usually stuck in combative arsehole mode (possibly got jammed up somewhere and never fully made it through puberty).

  45. And of course we also judge people by their offline outside, not knowing their offline inside.

    It’s nice to read of how many people go to cons and meet other people. As for me, I go to a con every year, but without so much meeting, although my outside looks normally social: I am a bit too shy for my own good.

  46. I see a difference between blog John and twiterr John. His blog posts are more thoughtful. He comes off like a but of a spaz and an unnecessarily a jerk on twitter. I think the nature of the 140 characters brings out the drive by in people.

    Being a typing asshole vs. being an asshole to someones face is a different ball game. Its alot more effort to be an asshole to someones face. Typing, hitting save, and getting back to your life is easier. Alot of people are like this. I am proud to say that I am just as rude to Redskins and Cowboys fans in real life as I am online.

    This post means we will never see the long awaiting Correia/Scalzi curse out fest at a con. The two of you are dissappointing fandom. :(.

  47. I appreciated your post. I don’t think that most people realize that everyone has different facets of their personality that they show to different people in different circumstances. These facets are all a bona fide representation of us; they just aren’t the entire person.

    I have a favorite writer and was ecstatic several years ago to find that they had a blog. The author candidly pointed out that the posts did not fully represent their actual life personae and real-life information, and I could accept that. Unfortunately I found that the author and I did not get on in our exchanges on their on-line forum. This makes me sad, because Of Course I expected this favorite author and I to be Simpatico because I love the books and that means that Of Course we must be on the same wave length… But I’m a grown-up; this person has a right to be who they are, and I simply dropped the blog and focus on loving the books.

  48. @Ctein, pretty sure that “sillily” is pedantically correct. But just by attempting to use it you are succeeding in that sillier writing attempt.

  49. “Hello, I’m a human and that means I’m complicated.”

    Hello! Me, too. Hello the human — all of your sides to all of mine!

    (Well, maybe not ALL of them. Some of them might be less amused with each other than others. But who can say?)

    Facets of a central core, or a society of mind — or both and all — but we are hardly simple. Any of us. Awareness of all that is another matter entirely.

    Nicely said.

  50. About twenty years ago I gave a talk about campaigning to a mixed group of about three hundred people. The one thing I was picked up on afterwards was ‘how to dress’, all by men who insisted that it was dishonest to wear fomal clothes for television interview, because it didn’t represent the ‘real them’. I had said that men should wear a tie if being interviewed on television because there is good evidence that people remember what a man wearing a tie says better than what one not wearing a tie says, so if you want people to remember your points dressing formally in that context is part of crafting an effective, memorable message. The objectors would all fit in the group described by so many above who lack self-awareness and are often rather abrasive. I wish I had thought at the time to ask if they behaved and dressed exactly the same way with their lovers as they did with their work colleagues or parents, though that does assume they had lovers … However I found it interesting that not one woman thought what I was saying about dress was at all worthy of comment. I wonder if there is something going on that means this insistence on being the same person everywhere seems to be more often found in men than in women? I’d be happy to be told that this isn’t others experience, but it is mine.

  51. I’m always mystified that anyone thinks being online and being in person are the same thing, or that being in public and being in private are the same thing.

    There are things that are self-evidently appropriate or inappropriate for these different kinds of settings and different modes of interaction. In exactly the way that there is a difference between behavior that’s appropriate at work and behavior that’s appropriate at home.

    There’s a lot of overlap among these various areas, obviously. My personality is mostly the same in all these venues. But just as I don’t wear my jammies to work and spend the time there watching Game of Thrones or gossiping on Facebook or phoning my friends, all of which things are perfectly appropriate for me to do at home, there are also things I don’t post on blogs or Facebook walls that I -do- write in private messages and correspondence, and there are things I say in private discussion that I do not say when talking to scant acquaintances in public places like a busy hotel lobby, a con suite, or a convention bar.

    I’m also completely baffled by the common supposition that I “should” engage with someone online who I wold deliberately avoid in person. When Ia total stranger or scant acquaintance behaves like an asshole to me on Facebook or my blog, I quietly unfriend or block them. I have been ridiculed, denigrated, and criticized for doing that, which bemuses me. If a total stranger or scant acquaintance behaved exactly that way to me in person, I would consciously avoid their company after that, and if occasions arose that put me in their proximity, I wouldn’t converse with them, though I would (usually) avoid being awkwardly rude. And I see no reason for that decision to be any different because someone is an asshole to me (or an asshole in general) online rather than in person.

  52. Real if mild autism early-on rubs your nose in the fact of the need to construct a persona compatible with other people necessitated to the extent that 0.) one needs them and 1.) one wishes them not to be unhappy for non-(explictly selfish) reasons.

    This construct, like all constructs, will succeed and fail based on the quality of the workmanship, the materials available, the definitions of ‘success’ and ‘failure’, and of course random circumstance. All of those vary with domain, e.g. I write better than I speak, vocal inflexion is absent on-line, if you should use an unusual official name, then on-line interaction is more dangerous for getting d0x0red than in-person but very much less likely to result in one’s getting immediately shot or punched…so it were no wonder that the constructs should differ as well.

  53. Context matters. As a teacher, I would never use profanity in the classroom. But I occasionally do at home. Or in public if I know that the people I’m with don’t mind. Similarly, I may adjust my topic depending on audience. I am freqently vocally political at home, but publicly, online and in person, I am moe circumspect. It just isn’t worth my energy to get into an argument with someone I care about. I don’t yell in restaurants, but I might use my “outside voice” when I’m on he street. These are simply signs of courtesy and maturity. There is no cause to be openly rude in most situations.

  54. I get why this idea of public vs. private or online vs. offline persona idea appeals to you. But I might also be a tiny bit concerned about this weirdo who expects you to match up to the idea of “you” he has constructed in his head based on your online writings. I get the sense he thought you and he had an established relationship when obviously, you don’t. So just please be alert should any further weirdness or contact attempts occur.

    Online vs. Offline? I don’t think I’m rude or nasty online, but I am more direct and opinionated. Part of this is because of lack of social cues that occur during IRL conversations.

    I enjoy discussing my thoughts on the upcoming elections online, for example. I can get my whole brilliant, snarky, thoughtful point out. My online comments are so great in fact, ANYONE exposed to them will simply have to vote for Hillary. End of discussion. Readers of my online posts will simply be logically convinced. Because of my brilliant posts.

    Last night, I had the pleasure of attending my Dad’s birthday dinner with ten family members and friends. My 13 year old nephew sat next to me; he is the ONLY one of the group who doesn’t vehemently hate Hillary. Some of the group like Trump, some claim not to. Some of this group are more polite than others. Verbal assaults on Hillary and Democrats in general started the moment I sat down.

    I was simply outgunned. It got a little heated at points. Thank God my nephew was there–at least one sensible person in the group! Family dinners lately feel like ambushes. And I can’t make the same arguments I make online without escalating the conflict.

    I am positive if I could have magically “frozen” all those at the table and presented them with my online position re: Ms. Clinton and the election, I’d have converted them all.

    Didn’t happen. But some of the more polite/sensitive members of the group saw MY discomfort, and allowed/facilitated subject change, enough that I still was able to enjoy the evening, the food (place was really nice–cozy, upscale Italian, I had Osso Bucco), and even my family’s company for the most part. And most importantly, Dad had a good time.

  55. Just curious, John–

    When you are making an online argument about something you appear to feel strongly about–say current politics–you are so articulate and well thought out. I don’t know if you actually change any readers minds, because your opinions on these matters are fairly similar to my own. But I suspect they have some influence on readers who don’t have a strong predispositions. I think your arguments could persuade my thinking, if it weren’t already in alignment.

    Offline: when you run into people who support “the other side” and have a discussion with them about it, do you remain as articulate and cogent? Do you think you have changed any minds through “real life” discussions? Or do you frequently walk away from those people feeling like you’d just spoken into a void? Or do you even bother to engage?

    Just wondering. Peace.

  56. Jazzlet: I think it might be that women and girls are more consistently socialised with the idea that they’re going to be required to edit themselves to suit their circumstances, and that being socially appropriate does mean presenting an edited and tweaked version of yourself when you’re “in public”. Whereas men and boys tend to be more consistently socialised with the notion that they’re going to be socially acceptable in an unedited form. I’m thinking here about the sorts of corrections of feminine behaviour to be “ladylike” or a “good girl” which parents start imposing from an early age (moderating volume, moderating actions, moderating speech etc, etc, etc), whereas boys are more likely to be let alone or treated to “boys will be boys” from indulgent parents.

    This also carries through to things like clothing and grooming – a woman (or female-passing person) who goes out in public poorly groomed will tend to be faced with harsher criticism than a man (or male-passing person) who does the same thing. Women not wearing make-up in public is scandalous to some people – men wearing make-up in public is equally scandalous (often to the same sort of person; and if you ask them why the different attitudes you’ll get some rather interesting answers). Essentially, women are expected to edit their personae, personalities, and appearance in order to be socially acceptable. Men tend not to be – and those men who are in positions or professions where they ARE required to edit their presentation and appearance in order to be socially acceptable tend to be regarded as somewhat effeminate and untrustworthy as a result.

  57. I know what Magpie71 means about women being told to moderate themselves. Back before the World Wide Web, when computers were mostly used for playing Space Invaders, there was a post card that showed four sets of legs around a table. The two pairs of male legs were all over the place, like a chess player dominating the board. The caption? Space Invaders.

  58. The whole thing hardly seems worth the effort it took you to write. But when we meet I certainly see no reason to mention it to you!

  59. Megpie71 I am sure you are right about women being taught to moderate their behaviour from a young age. Or at least most women, I wasn’t taught to at home, it was just as important that my five brothers were quiet when my dad was working at home as it was that I was quiet. I certainly experienced it from female relatives, and at school, where I was considered loud and forward.

    Sean Crawford, any woman who has been on crowded public transport can relate to that! And the reaction you get as a woman if you don’t huddle into the smallest space, but assert your right to the whole of your seat can be quite amusing.

  60. Megpie and Jazzlet:

    I found your comments interesting, and Megpie’s illuminating. As a female, I don’t think I was taught not to speak up. But I definitely internalized messages that I needed to take care of those around me.

    I learned to pay attention to social cues, facial expressions, and if I said something that caused discomfort, to back off or be conciliatory.

    I don’t think men get indoctrinated in quite the same way, or to the same extent. But it explains why I am often better at formulating an argument online than in person. And I suppose I am, therefore, “a different person” online than IRL.

    It’s not bad to be sensitive to others’ moods and feelings, and not wish to upset people . It is what it is.

    I hadn’t considered until reading your posts that part of my discomfort arguing in person vs. the greater freedom I feel doing so online had anything to do with being female, but it does.

  61. Ctein, way back in the early 70s one of my bosses at UT who’d once entertained T.S. Eliot, rolled her eyes at us and spoke of the necessity of avoiding Eliot’s whoopee cushions. I will keep you in mind should such an occasion arise.

    And – “basic theory of presentation of self”? John, your blog is such an education to me, full of things I’ve not considered deeply enough, maybe. And I’d thought myself deep when cogitating over Dumbledore’s implications that self was but a result of actions made and decisions arrived at. I guess our patchwork identity is the one thing we’ll take with us if we take anything, so it’s a serious. But then I think of horses and how they “exist” in groups and singly, well then I’d rather have it that way, with us just being. Thinking back, I guess I’m a bit of a chameleon in the flesh and can go well with whatever is floating someone’s boat; but sometimes in print I could become something of a monster to some—especially in a poem I might write where I can’t see well through it (I’ve made enemies that way).

    For what it’s worth, your online presentation at times reminds me of a colorful uncle of mine who’s now in his nineties – he’s been bald for most of his life, and a bit acerbic with anyone science challenged. I will admit that, should I see YOU in person I’d probably be expecting to see him (your picture looks like he once did, though yours with much more hair); and maybe I’d instinctively look for distance between us if I sensed you were taking aim at me.

    Robert Reynolds, I understood you most.

  62. I am a:

    writer (a bad one)
    and more . . .

    I am legion! All of me is “real.”

  63. The comment on how you speak of Ted Cruz on your blog vs. how you would speak to him in person reminds me of George Carlin’s Proximity Theory of Assholes. “Someone on TV is really an ASSHOLE! Someone in the car is Pretty Much of an Asshole. Someone standing next to you in line? this guy’s an asshole.”

  64. Interesting post. Because you express yourself differently depending on circumstances, you are (at best) inconsistent? This strikes me as a pre-emptive Dramatic Flounce, wherein any action of yours toward this person in future will automatically be “wrong,” no matter what you do.

    Interesting discussion, too, especially in re women and autists. Introverts as well. One can actively eschew face-to-face contact with other people, yet have copious, intricate, detailed discussions with them about everything under the sun. For some of us, this is simple self-preservation. :)

    The person who clings to a single mode of expression through willfulness alone is impoverished in his or her daily interactions. The child with ultra-literate speaking mannerisms in the schoolyard as well as in the classroom is in for a great deal of misery from his/her peers.

    There’s considerable theatre involved in human communication. The individual on the autism spectrum, diligently practicing role play of common daily scenarios, is learning this the hard way. The neurotypical person who instantly, instinctively adapts to the zeitgeist, yet blithely considers him- or herself to be “just the same, no matter who I’m talking to!” has no idea of the complicated mental machinery involved. Lucky bastard. :D

  65. If an American citizen believes that police racism is a problem in america, should they always kneel during the national anthem in protest until the problem is addressed? Do they march in the streets with nonviolent resistance even if that gets them arrested? Resort to violence? Or just keep posting a out it on facebook while being silent in the physical world? Or maybe do nothing at all?

    The point being, its extremely complicated, there is no singular “right” answer, and there are selfish motives as well as altruistic motives that drive a person to do what they do. And then there is a layer where people try to fool themselves of the reasons they do things. Critics try to say he is being “disrespectful” which is a flavor of being impolite.

    It’s a more extreme version than calling Ted Cruz names online versus to his face. But taking the issue of what we choose to do and pushing it to an extreme situation, I think highlights that there are a LOT of things in play, not just “be polite”. If nothing else, it shows that the definition of what is polite and what is rude or disrespectful may be driven by that person’s own self interest, their drive to fit in, their desire to avoid feeling shame, whatever.

    There is a saying that well-behaved women rarely make history.

    Maybe you *should* call Ted Cruz all those names to his face. Or Donald Trump. I just saw a video where David Duke showed uo at a Black Lives Matter protest, and the blm protesters shouted him out. Maybe that was the right thing to do.

    Or to make it even more complicated, maybe there is no “should” and maybe its more a matter of how many spoons a person has, and what problem they want to put them to to solve. Maybe you want to call Cruz those names if you ever met him face to face, but maybe you just dont have the spoons left to do it.

  66. Shrinking Violet:

    “This strikes me as a pre-emptive Dramatic Flounce, wherein any action of yours toward this person in future will automatically be ‘wrong,’ no matter what you do.”

    Inasmuch as he’s already determined that he’d never want to associate with me, I believe the pre-emptive flounce already occurred.


    I really don’t go out of my way to convince people about anything anymore, online or off. I have a tendency to say what I think and then if they find it persuasive, great, but if not, whatever. Offline, I also don’t proactively go out to argue and debate with people, either, generally speaking. I may sometimes say to people, “here’s my thought on this, tell me what you think,” or they may ask it of me, and we’ll have a conversation on that. But I don’t usually go in with the goal of changing someone’s mind about it.

    Laura Resnick:

    “I’m also completely baffled by the common supposition that I ‘should’ engage with someone online who I would deliberately avoid in person.”

    It’s what entitlement looks like. And, you know, if you search deep enough into the archives here you might find an earlier iteration of me kvetching about someone who didn’t want to engage with me, so I’m guilty of that sin as well. But the current version of me thinks that previous version of me was wrong, and possibly a bit of a jerk on the subject.

  67. One of my several regrets in this life is not taking the chance to insert myself into the socialization circle clustered around you at SFContario a few years ago. You seemed to be entertaining to those who did avail of your presence, and it didn’t seem like there was much reason not to join aside from, you know, regular old human frailties.

  68. @Vonne Anton, sometimes you really don’t need much time at all in someone’s presence to get a sense of their character.

    Re the original post, I find it a little baffling because ‘you are different online than offline’ can mean many things, and it doesn’t sound like this fellow on FB was specific? “Your personality is not identical in both mediums!” or “you are nice and engage in civility!” are really weird as criticisms, because that’s treating context as some kind of flaw or hypocrisy.

    OTOH, ‘this person is different online and offline’ can be an entirely on-point criticism if pointing out that someone insists on good behavior and lofty ideals online but doesn’t practice them in person. (The blogger who passionately argues for gender equality, but is condescending and creepy to young women at cons; the writer who gives talks about inequality and social justice, but acts like waiters and flight attendants are her personal serfs.) Doesn’t sound like that was this guy’s beef, and anyway, that is not a problem of online/offline personas not matching up, but good old hypocrisy and assholery.

  69. On this thread, both in comments and John’s post, I’ve seen the word “mode” used. I can’t resist saying that in sf writer David Gerrold’s epic Chtorr Wars series “Mode Training,” a southern California human potential thing, is a big part of the plot. The hero learns to be in different modes for different settings on purpose rather than unconsciously. (Part of the theme is how individuals and societies can learn to be more effective)

    Speaking of women offline, in Gerrold’s first person work the hero sometimes mentions a soldier moving in the background, and then a paragraph later gets around to mentioning the gender. Meaning: In the future the army is integrated, gender-wise. And know what? Shades of John’s wife—the hero’s army girlfriend, compared to him, is taller, older, higher in rank and has more common sense.

  70. Mythago:

    As I read the complaint about me, the assertion was I act all tough online but quail at the sight of those I talk about online in the real world, thus I am a hypocrite and a coward, etc. I found this interesting for many reasons (mostly essayed above), but also I can specifically remember going out of my way to meet some of the folks I tussled with online when I was at the same convention as they (obviously, they were not on my list of people I’d intentionally avoid). So this person’s model of me was… inaccurate, at least.

    Which is not surprising; there are a number of inaccurate models of me running around in a lot of people’s heads. But, you know. If you’re going to dislike me, dislike me, not a poorly-constructed version of me you have in your head.

  71. I dunno, man. The poorly-constructed version of you I have in my head owes me five bucks and also once spilled coffee on my best suit, unlike the real-life you, who seems to be a perfectly pleasant individual. I’d rather dislike that imaginary motherfucker.

  72. Behavior is contextual; this shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. I don’t curse or argue about politics at work, because I enjoy being employed; I do both of those things at home (and online) because I am at heart a foulmouthed, opinionated person. That doesn’t mean that I’m faking it at work, it just means that I have a modicum of self-control.

    But I feel that this is often different between different online mediums, too. The way I write here, or on a few other blogs I frequent, is very different than the way I write on, say, Tumblr. On Tumblr (at least fannish Tumblr), there’s a shared culture, where I can write things that are understood as hyperbolic or as references to common cultural points–and can use non-standard grammar and spelling to add additional layers of meaning to my writing–and that’s not necessarily the case in blog comments. Adjusting how I present myself means that I’ll be understood and won’t accidentally start unnecessary arguments.

    tl;dr, how we present ourselves is hugely dependent on both who we’re talking to and where that conversation is taking place. Anyone who thinks that makes people ‘fake’ clearly wasn’t socialized properly as a young adult.

  73. I haven’t met you in person yet, but unless you actually use a giant mallet to eject rude people from conversations then you’re clearly the fakest cowardly fake that ever faked and I’ll lose all respect for you and also I will set myself on fire so we never have to meet again. Or for the first time. What was I talking about again?

    On a more serious note, recently under my online ‘nym I revealed something that happened to me that almost no one in RL knows. I almost certainly wouldn’t talk about it with anyone outside of close family or a therapist. I only brought it up because of the protection that anonymity provides. It doesn’t make me fake, it makes me cognizant of context.

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