10 Feb 2012

Anonymity is an interesting tool. It provides a screen behind which we are able to hide so that our actions and words can occur without fear of reprisal. It is not a new thought to suggest that the Internet is a medium wherein such secrecy is not only permitted, but encouraged. Pseudonyms are the default handles by which we identify ourselves on most websites. Facebook and Google+ demand honesty from their users—at least, in nomenclature—but such policies are hardly the norm.

There has always been a disconnect between my various web presences. Part of this is the convenience of throw-away identities in situations where the time necessary to register would be more effort than the comments that I am making are worth. A quick message of approval or an offhand comment on a story gains nothing by connecting my identity to them – particularly if I am not attempting to become part of a broader community. This version of myself is inconsequential to my web identity and is more akin to applause after a show than to actual communication.

Another version of myself, and one that is much more significant, is Steven Ray Orr and is tied directly to this site. Here I attempt thoughtful, careful consideration of whatever is on my mind, be it television, politics, or writing. When I join discussions online, I often connect those personas directly to this website as a form of giving credence to what I am saying. In fact, by using my real name I am stripping away the protections of anonymity to show how strongly I stand behind the words and ideas that I am advocating. Right or wrong, everything on this website is my own thinking and I would not be ashamed for anyone to read it.

There are other places where my focus is elsewhere. For a while, I tried to play with different forms of narrative and was thankful to keep those in anonymous spaces, because I judged them to be failures. I have a Flickr account that I do not advertise, because the freedom to keep my amateur photography apart from the artwork that I am proud of. And then there is my Twitter account.

I want to start with a clarification: this is not an apology for my tweets or the things that I say in that space. While the content of my account is often vulgar, rude, or downright offensive, the placement of it is deliberate: those who follow me are well aware of what to expect. Likewise, it is not meant to be directly associated with this website, because the calibre of discourse is dramatically different.

If you were to treat my twitter account with the same degree of seriousness that I hope this website is treated, you would forced to conclude that I am an asshole. And I am not pretending otherwise. But my twitter account is in a space where other people come to in order to find humor, if they so choose.

The problem is that this distinction has never been made clear. This site has long had a prominent link to that twitter account although I cannot recall as to why I made such a decision. So I have now made more clear the difference between “Steven who would like to be taken seriously” and “Steven who is interested in getting laughed at”: that twitter link directs to a new account that I have set up for a more serious discourse.

Twitter is one of the places that I visit online to disconnect from myself and I am not sorry for that. But in attaching that identity to this one, I made a mistake by giving the impression that the two spaces were to be treated as one. For that, I apologize.