The Blog

Identity Hacked: Losing Yourself in Social Media

Identity has always been based on partial truths and generalizations but for those of us brought up on social media this has never been truer.
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Photo by Doug Seymour

Identity has always been based on partial truths and generalizations but for those of us brought up on social media this has never been truer.

If in the past we were our job, relationship, favorite band or car brand, we are now also our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Our self-esteem may fluctuate with each follow, favorite or like - if we didn't post a picture it may not have happened, or at least, might as well not have.

We may have trouble deciding whether we're happy or just popular, sit at home looking at photos of friends who appear convincingly satisfied, leading more exciting, meaningful lives.

You might even wake up one morning to find you've been hacked and who you thought you were; is now someone else.

I was embarrassed by how upset losing my Twitter made me, like I'd lost a loved one, a million dollars or my good name. I had a gig that week so I should've been busy scoring parts for my band but instead I was sending support requests, changing passwords and overall despairing.

Not that you couldn't lose your job in the past, your lover or any other elusive element of self but at least these were physically tangible. Now we spend hours a day cultivating symbols of ourselves we don't even own, strategically revealing and concealing from behind a screen.

Personal property has always been for the taking but now it's your identity that's up for grabs, scattered across the web like pieces of a puzzle presented for poachers.

In my pre-Twitter days I would write in a journal, I would meditate in silence.

Now I propel my thoughts into the abyss, meditation is entering a dead zone.

After almost ten years of the digital life, I word my ideas as tweets, texts, 140 character bites. I expect a treat or re-tweet for every intelligently worded statement, like a dog awaiting his masters' approval.

But where was my Twitter audience that weekend of the hacking? I was alone with myself, lamenting at the wasted hours occurring in the vacuum of my apartment, feeling like the victim of my brain instead of the curator of its content.

If social media is great for bold, provocative statements it's not conducive to deep thought, extended arguments and nuance.

The pain of my forced digital withdrawal has brought into question my capacity for a meaningful, prolonged state of self-reflection. I fear I no longer follow my thoughts to conclusion, only finish half of what I start.

If Twitter's given me a vehicle for expressing the every day thoughts and feelings that don't make it into my songs, it has also become a dumping ground for half hatched ideas that would have been best nurtured in private instead of immediately dispatched and, most likely, forgotten.

Though I'm incredibly fortunate to have gotten my account back and have taken steps to protect myself in the future, I realize I need to be more selective about where and how I create my identity.

Twitter is just renting me a page, for free. They can call it quits tomorrow and my years of interacting, micro-blogging and documenting will be lost.

So I will continue to tweet but before I share, I will develop and nurture, keeping some things to myself, for myself. I now carry a notebook that I can add to, edit, expound, upon and even hold in these hands of mine.