Micro-blogging services provide an interesting window into the social play of virtual identities. Although I consistently use ping.fm to announce blog posts on Twitter, Facebook and Plurk, I go back and forth on my level of active participation. Outside of trying to steer clear of the black hole of time such services can generate, I'm also wary of the blurry line between social and strategic communication.
Given that Botgirl is a carefully fabricated character it may seem odd that I have any qualms about the use of microblogging as a branding tool to shape others' perception of my virtual identity. But I do. Have qualms.
In a sense there are two Botgirls. One is a public persona who is a vehicle for creative exploration and expression. The public persona is not about the person, but about her creations. It's about interacting on a public stage with an audience aware of the theatrical setting. To me, being authentic in the public persona means being true to artistic vision, which sometimes includes very intentional activity to create specific impressions in the minds of an audience.
The other Botgirl is the personal persona who engages in social interactions with friends and acquaintances. Although we know each other only through pseudonymous identities, the content of communication is often intimately personal and can include deeply experienced emotions that ripple outside the bounds of the virtual ID. To me, being authentic in the personal persona means being as transparently open and honest as possible without a covert agenda. I may choose to withhold information, but don't fabricate RL information. For instance, I make no claims to age, gender, nationality, etc.
My struggle with microblogging beyond blog post announcements is that it is a strange mixture of public and private; especially Plurk with its near-realtime chat functions. So on one hand the communication can be very personal, on the other hand it is public. It is on a stage with a wide audience. It seems to me that some people are communicating as much for branding as for what I consider to be personally authentic communication. I catch myself doing the same thing sometimes. I don't like it.
I've reached no conclusions yet and will continue to muddle through for the time being. In the meantime, there have been a number of interesting posts recently related to the social aspects of virtual identity worth reading, including great commentaries by Vint Falken and Dandellion Kimban.