The Personal vs Professional Online, Alienation, and Staying True to My Roots
I don't hide the fact that I generally suffer from depression and anxiety with an extra dollop of seasonal depression to round it out, but I don't write about it much anymore, either. The more entwined my work life has become with my online identity, and the more entwined my online identity has become with my life in general, the more anxious I am about sharing this side of myself.
The difficulties and consequences of crossing the personal and professional wires is a natural concern that a lot of my contemporaries experience, but I'm not sure how to take it apart and deal with it in terms of the culture I love and try to foster online. I started blogging in 2003, and for a number of years I used the medium primarily to talk through and document my life. I use no amount of hyperbole when I say that it was revolutionary for me. This medium has ferried me through depression, cancer, and a breakdown, among other things, and brought me to my sobriety. In some striking ways, I am a different person than I was 11½ years ago.
This medium, aside from opening up an entire career for me, put me in the habit of writing and engaging more openly with other people. I found a global community of human beings that I was not conscious of before 2003. It's astounding, really, even now, that I get to type this here and you get to read this there, and then we get to connect in ways we never would as visual acquaintances nodding acknowledgement at each other on the street or in a drugstore aisle.
Prior to 2003, though, I was more able to be a different person in different places. When I went to work, I physically took my body to different place where there were certain known expectations and rules for behaviour, and then when I came home, there was a different set of certain known expectations and rules for behaviour. At times, it was a relief to walk away from one and become another. With a somewhat long-lived and known internet presence, though, the dividing line between personae is less solid. Many of my more personal interactions are public online as is much of my professional work, and who I am in one role has become blurred into who I am in another.
The reason that I kept coming back again and again to this medium for well over a decade is the vulnerability the task demands. It's good for me. My depression and anxiety often put me into hermit mode. I stop talking to people, hide at home, and get lost. Reaching out into the void and saying "Here, let's share this together" seems to clean the wounds and set me right, and I know that my sharing has helped others clean their own wounds, too. We walk this thing together.
But now I am blurry. I am both personal and professional, and I worry about saying too much or too little. Too often now, I default to saying nothing at all.
This is not about an identity crisis. I am clear about who I am, who I want to be here, and what I want to accomplish. My concern is with how clear that is to others on either side of the eroded personal/professional dividing wall. In trying to alienate no one, though, maybe I alienate everyone.
So, here I am, and I'm sad. It's December, the nights are long, my emotional and mental health requires me to talk about it, and this is the best therapy I have ever found that both heals me and builds me up. I've decided that I will write about depression and anxiety sometimes, and damn the eroded boundaries. I will use the best tool at my disposal, and I will pioneer my grey areas. I will stay true to my first and greatest online love: personal writing out loud.