My Other Online Self
No less an august personage than my own wife has noted that in the By The Way… blog, I have a distinctly different voice than I do here on the Whatever. Her full realization of this came when I posted an entry about someone criticizing me and rather than laying into him as I might here in the Whatever (or at least criticize him for a distinct lack of interestingness in his slam), I turned it into a learning moment for the AOL Journalers. Krissy actually called me to complain. Damn it, she wanted blood on the floor! That’s one of the reasons why I love her: she’s always encouraging me to express myself.
But I can’t. Scratch that — actually, I probably could. AOL has been an absolute gem of a corporate master and has placed almost no restrictions on me in terms of how I conduct myself in the AOL Journal. And, I should note, I didn’t ask for near-total editorial independence, they just sort of gave it to me. So they’re very good eggs for that.
So it’s more to the point that I won’t. Not in the AOL Journal, anyway. One of the reasons I suspect AOL gives me such editorial independence is that they assume I’m going to act like a grown-up and actually be useful to the many members who have started AOL Journals in a rush of enthusiasm but then have no idea what they’re going to do next. So in addition to straight-ahead blogging on a number of subjects, I do a fair share of explaining how to use the Journal tool, introducing the Journalers to basic blogging concepts and (this is the relevant thing here) conducting myself in a responsible way so that when they wander out in the big blog world, any bad habits they may have picked up won’t be because of AOL not presenting a good role model in the form of me.
To put it another way, if I slam on an AOL Journaler and thousands of AOL Journalers see it and they’re new to Journaling and blogging (and I’m being touted as this great Blog Expert), what’s to stop them from thinking performing gratuitous blogslams aren’t standard operating procedure? And, by extension, what’s to stop anyone still itchin’ to criticize AOL for being AOL to point at me and say — “Look! He’s being a dick! He’s teaching them to be dicks! It’s the September That Never Ends!”
So, essentially, a lot of it boils down to the fact I feel a sense of responsibility, and that sense of responsibility comes in from a number of different angles. I feel responsible to AOL to help it look like a good Internet citizen and to help it succeed in making AOL Journals a good place to write online. I feel responsible to AOL Journalers to be useful and to be a guide by example in terms of how to present one’s self in a blog. I feel responsible to the larger Blogoverse in terms of making sure that AOL Journalers integrate well with the rest of you, through the example and information I provide. And of course, I feel a responsibility to myself to actually do a good job at all of that stuff. Somewhere along the way I developed this thing where it’s important for me to do well at the things I’ve accepted responsibility for. It’s kind of annoying, but what are you going to do. At least it helps me pay the mortgage.
I wouldn’t say that the way I am at my AOL Journal is me when I’m restrained, since as I noted no one’s restraining me but myself. I will say that it’s me when I have a different set of priorities in effect. Here at the Whatever, as I’ve famously noted many, many times, it’s all about me me me, and I don’t feel obligated — or indeed even interested — in considering the needs, wants or requirements of anyone else. I pay $30 a month for all the Web space and bandwidth I need to run the hot and cold faucets of id at full, firehose-like blast. At By The Way, it’s not all me, all the time. It’s a lot of other things, too.
I don’t think the difference is horribly dramatic — I think I’m still recognizably myself — but it’s a different iteration of me than you’ll get here. It’s the way these things work.