I'm in a stage right now where there are lots of details that I'm juggling in my life, both in the real world and my weblog world. My job is busy, with quite a few relatively exciting projects on the go at the same time. My home life is busy, looking after a highly energetic toddler in the evenings. And I've been busy transitioning my weblog from Radio Userland to Movable Type - I still have a list of things to do on that, including comments system and search functionality. But I've finished the main content migration, new CSS design, topic archives and various other things. And then there's my reading and writing. I have some more articles to write and try to get published in the real world. Plus I've stored up a list of topics I want to explore and write about on my weblog. I recently read Lawrence Lessig's Free Culture and I found that very inspirational (expect some posts on that later). In other reading news, I'm on a Hemingway kick currently - I recently re-read A Moveable Feast and now I'm at the Paris 1920's stage of a Hemingway biography. So I'm keeping busy with all that and more.
"...my blog self is not my entire self and I must say that I've been cool with that as long as both of those two selves never happen to appear together in the same room. When that happens, it shines a spotlight right on top of that partial disclosure or split identity issue and this is something I'm finding uncomfortable to reconcile."
This got me thinking about how my own blogging and real-life "identities" co-exist and sometimes integrate. It reminded me of the 'weblog as avatar' concept which I and others are interested in. But I have to say I've never really been convinced that my weblog is my avatar (i.e. an online representation of myself). For one thing, I deliberately hardly ever talk about my personal life and family online. I don't write about what music I listen to and I don't usually mention the books I read (although I've made an exception in this post). I also don't talk about my day job here, even though I am a Web Producer by day and my weblog is focused on Web Technology. Well actually what I mean is, I don't talk about specific details of my day job - like the people I work with, the projects I work on, the company I work for. I do write about topics that intersect with my day job, I just don't personalise any of it.
This is because there is a distinct split between my real-world self and my weblog self. That split is inevitable in any professional writing and I'd argue very healthy for a weblog. I wouldn't have it any other way, but maybe that's because I see my weblog as a publishing tool first and foremost. A social publishing tool perhaps, because I do converse with other people via my weblog.
Unless you think of a blog as an online diary, you shouldn't have any reason to fully integrate your real-world self with your weblog persona. Integrate aspects of your personal life, sure. But there's a big difference between infusing your writing with personality (which I try to do) and transcribing your daily life into a weblog (the online journal variety of blog). Some people are doing both - i.e. they have a 'professional' blog and a diary blog. Other people have blogs that mostly focus on their topics of interest, but they also include selected tales from their personal life. It's a fine line - but the more personal your weblog writing is, the more your weblog 'avatar' begins to resemble you. The less personal your weblog is, the more your weblog avatar has its own unique identity - which you can keep at arms length if need be (e.g. if your boss starts reading your blog).
I have to admit I've been thinking of adding a bit more of 'the offline me' into my weblog - e.g. perhaps I will start talking about music more, maybe I'll add some multimedia components to my weblog that highlight my personality some more, maybe I'll start to write some personal essays. But there will always be a line that I don't cross, especially when it comes to people in my private life (e.g. family, work).
Let me return to the 'weblog as avatar' concept, most famously stated by Tom Coates last year:
"This flexibility of publishing [for weblogs] creates a fluid and living form of self-representation, the 'homepage (as a place)' has become the 'weblog (as a person)' that can articulate a voice. And when there are a multiplicity of voices in space, then the possibility arises of conversations. And where there is conversation there is the sharing of information. And conversation about what? Well everything from music and movies and animation and medical information."
I agree with the concept of a weblog as a kind of personalisation of the tradional web homepage. However in the case of a 'professional' weblog, if you're describing it as an avatar then it would be a highly focused one - or extremely limited, depending on your point of view. For example if you were to think of my weblog as my online avatar, then you'd come to know me as a person who witters on about topic-mapping, knowledge management, web design, the universal canvas, and various other esoteric web-ralated topics. You'd completely miss how important my family is to me, my musical tastes, my interest in rugby, the fact that I play squash (including with one of the guys on my blogroll), and a whole lot of other 'personal' details that I don't talk about on my weblog. Did I say "talk about" - I meant "write about"! Heh heh, see what I mean?
You also can't really tell what kind of a person I am from my weblog. In real life am I funny like Chandler? Macho like Joey? Quirky like Ross? Or maybe I'm nothing like a Friends character! :-) You could probably take some educated guesses after perusing my weblog archives. For example I've mentioned before that I'm an INTJ, so that perhaps gives you some indication of my personality. And, as I mentioned above, I try to infuse my writing with my personality.
My point is that one's weblog avatar is limited by the scope of one's weblog content.
So your weblog avatar doesn't have to be "in the same room" as your real-life identity. If that happens too often, your online persona will eventually clash with your real-life identity (most likely, it'll be your online persona that gets your offline one into trouble). Incidentally I'm sure Tom wasn't implying that weblogs are fully representative of a person. His main point I think was that compared to static old-style homepages, weblogs have much more personality. I agree and it's a good thing. It's what makes the Web such a fun place and I get to meet lots of interesting weblogs...er, I mean people!