This week I created and uploaded my first ever video to YouTube. The experience was both harrowing and exhilarating. Although the situation is completely different, it reminded me a bit about the first time I ever entered a chat room. I don’t recall exactly when that was, but I do recall the feeling that I was talking with complete strangers who knew absolutely nothing about me or my motivations. I had some sense of how I come across in real life, but online all of those in-person social cues were missing. I recall wondering how to re-create my personality in the chat room. It’s interesting that, almost 20 years later, entering an online sharing space still retains the same mystery for me.
I wonder if it is coincidence or just the fact that it’s obviously been my focus recently, but that the subject matter of my first video illustrates potential reason for my discomfort in posting. On YouTube, I really have no shared experience, space or association to draw on. The network concepts of homophily and propinquity are not immediately apparent.
Now, here’s what I’ve learned recently about the online networking experience. Even though I don’t readily see myself as connected in this new digital space (YouTube, in this case), I actually have a lot more to draw from than is originally apparent. By virtue of making the decision to post, I am immediately inserting myself into a group of like-minded people. I am not the only person making this decision, nor am I alone in my choice of subject matter. I have also done my best to include information in my video about the other social networks that I’m more heavily involved in. I’ve included reference to friends and academic influences in these networks, which helps to situate me within these online constellations. I have actually provided enough information for the astute observer to piece together my background, current occupation, friends, school contacts and even a good idea of my personal ideologies, to a certain extent. Although it is a bit scary to think about, I have given a more well-rounded picture of myself than I would have if I had walked into a room of strangers!