Continuing the dialogue on “Online Presence and Digital Citizenship”, we’ve had quite the exchange: Roz Foster weighed in with the challenge of finding authenticity on Facebook, Roz Ito added her thoughts on the advantages of aliases and the dissolution of hierarchy on the web while Ire’ne Lara Silvai contributed reflections on unmasking the self, and Jude Alexander added thoughts on the positive aspects of selling the self, and as I’ve been composing Part II, more comments have been arriving, which we hope to cover in Part III. Be sure to check out their thoughtful comments on Part I of Digital Citizenship as well as on a repost of Roz Ito’s thoughts.
Authenticity, unfortunately, can’t guarantee attention, and attention often doesn’t merit respect or admiration. Attention can be brief, flashing for a day, forgotten the next. What often garners attention on the internet? Posts on kids doing the darnedest things, pets doing the same as above, gross out confessionals, reports on illness and injury and freak-show sightings at work or on the road.
One of the truths about online networking is that those who spend the most time on these sites often do so out of necessity. Those who are online the most are online for a reason. This is their outlet, their window to the world. They may be chained to their desk or working at home, and need quick fixes in real time to fellow digital drifters. So the trivial flotsam and jetsam that some may see as litter, often serves, for most, as stepping stones across a barren and monotonous workday. One person’s trash is another’s treasure, and we would be committing a disservice to our shared communities by dismissing each other’s predilections and criticizing our fellow citizen’s outlets.
How do we handle posts and updates that we might deem as dross? Perhaps we can re-purpose. Recycling sustains the community. Flip the scrap into something useful. Find the connection with your own interests, so your engagement is reaffirmed as is your role in your community. Keep a conversation going rather than spouting fragmented snippets of quotes that are most likely misquoted or badly paraphrased. Pick up a thread of someone else’s and challenge yourself to carry the topic as far as you can without trying to provoke a contentious fight but, instead, instigate sustained thoughtfulness because true conversation and real dialogue will lead to action more than just citing clever jokes or waxing bromides.
How do we engage the other in a shared narrative that will promote real action? Online, we are essentially shaping and transforming culture, both individually and collectively. The evolution will be gradual and feel miniscule in our flesh and blood life though it may read or appear as dramatic online. We barely feel a ripple, but if we plow through online staying true to our purpose and our digital self then the shift will be evident through our perspective and how others view us.
We’re all at different places and most of the time we’re just flying by on the web, one dear friend calls her brief visits on social networks her “Facebook drivebys.” We each meet at different stages of our life though we may share the same age, the same hometown, or the same socio-economic or ethnic background. How do we unite at a shared point that enriches are disparate and lives? How do engage with 300+ so-called “friends”? We can’t possibly pay attention to everything and everyone on the web, but we can put out feelers, be like anemones, as poet Brenda Hillman describes herself. We’re stuck to our niche on our little sliver of digital reef, so we keep our senses open to whatever passes, grabbing what bits we can use to build our network and fuel our work without judging the good or bad of the stimuli that passes by.
We tread different ecosystems on the web, and different support structures meet varying needs. If we recognize which structure works best for our purpose, more power to us. As citizens of the virtual universe, we are responsible for our own digital literacy, and we must constantly hone our skills to sift through the overwhelming stimuli to seek out what will sustain and nourish our own engagement.
How do you sift through the stimuli? How do you stay connected to your communities? And how do you practice digital literacy to be an engaged citizen on the web?