Self portraits

I’ve been listening to a podcast conversation between James Shelley and Patrick Rhone in which they discuss Patrick’s decision to go ”nonline” - defined as:

”No longer found on, made available to, or primarily accessed or contacted through the Internet.”

It doesn’t equate to offline, which implies someone has disconnected completely, just that they won’t be leaving physical traces, such as tweets or blog posts, or engaging in online conversations. A “read only mode” is the great way it’s described.

Patrick explains how he misses the early days of social when status updates meant status updates, they were about what you were doing, where you were - even the clichéd “what you had for lunch” posts.

The argument is that these, as boring or banal as they might seem, are an insight into you as a person and what’s going on in your life. Not retweets of what someone else is doing or saying.

Interestingly, journalling has taken over for him - the analog equivalent of these old status updates - and I can see the obvious extension from one to the other.

Patrick talks of the importance of looking back in order to reflect and remember, something we don’t do on social networks and rarely do, in any proper sense, on blogs.

I always refer to my blog as an ongoing conversation with myself so am often referencing old posts but usually as evidence to back up what I’m currently thinking.

Is that always the most constructive thing?

What I have been doing, however, is going back through the write365 project posts 1 on a regular basis to see what I was saying as they were often intensely personal and reflected my state of mind at the time.

And I think it all ties in with my struggle over pen and paper - not just what I’m writing but how.

While flicking through some of those old posts (they were all written offline and saved to Dropbox) I came across one called “Self portraits” in which I wrote that we...

”are telling our stories day by day here on social networks. The difference is most don't actually realise what we are doing or understand the potential significance of it...”

”We paint a self portrait over the course of months, years...”

and that...

”Our self portraits can only be judged on the paint we have used, the brush strokes and techniques employed, the settings we have placed ourselves in and, ultimately, whether we have signed our work. So, what story do we want to tell? What impression do we want to give?”

Listening to James and Patrick immediately connected, reaffirming the idea that a big problem online is that we are frequently telling the wrong stories.

We can tell the stories we think other people want to hear. We can tell skewed stories as we are often not truly honest with ourselves. We tell other people’s stories rather than our own, without comment, without opinion.

What use are the wrong stories and are we doing ourselves a disservice by telling them?

It’s something I’ve been conscious of for some time but only recently decided to really take proper action on.

I’m tired of telling the wrong story.


  1. The write365 project was my take on writing something, anything, every day for a year. I aimed for an average of 300 words but with no restrictions on what it was about. This was conducted on Google Plus so is no longer available online as I deleted my account. 
  1. Interest in the IndieWeb appears to have upticked ever so slightly over the past couple of weeks, which may be why I’ve noticed so many more posts about how and why people are posting to their own sites and their various social presences. I meant to weigh in much sooner on some of them.

    I take issue, for example, with Colin Walker’s post Self Portraits. If I understand Colin correctly, he seems to be saying that while we are telling stories about ourselves on social media, those stories may somehow be the wrong stories. To me, that suggests that there is one true story, one true self to be depicted in the self portrait. I think that’s just wrong, and not only in the case of social media.
    Long before there was an internet, there was Erving Goffman’s The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, which made plain what people may have known internally all along, that we present different selves in different interactions. I know my Twitter self, such as it is, is not the same self that I am here or in any of my other web presences.
    Colin says he’s “tired of telling the wrong story”. He doesn’t say why he thinks it is the wrong story, rather than a different story.
    Anyway, the reason it has taken me well over a week to get that little rant off my chest is that I’ve also been thinking about those different selves of mine, and while I regard this self as the Mothership I also have increasingly come to realise that the friction involved in posting here is a definite barrier, especially for rapid conversational responses and the like. This was brought home to me while bringing over an old post from a previous incarnation.
    I’m a baker, not a fryer, from about four years ago, tracked the development of my online presence through the various bits of software that enabled it. I was pretty overjoyed to go full circle back to static sites, thanks to Octopress. It felt good to get away from WordPress. Then Octopress stalled, and I gave up (prematurely, I now realise) on other static site generators and started moving everything from Octopress to Grav, which now powers this site.
    Around the same time, I bumped into the IndieWeb. That reaffirmed my desire to continue to have my own sites. I never did go all in on Twitter or Facebook, although I did enjoy Tumblr. I quickly realised, however, that making Grav fully IndieWeb competent was beyond my abilities. With help, I managed to do some bits of it, but I also started getting into WithKnown and, lately, micro.blog. And when I finally got micro.blog and WithKnown talking to each other, I was again very happy, although I did also ask: “what exactly have I gained”.
    So, here I am again, pondering the future of my technology.
    It is a pain to write new stuff for Grav, requiring a whole bunch of time-consuming steps. There is a version of the theme I use that seems to keep the production site and the development site synced in both directions, which would definitely simplify matters, but I’ve been afraid of trying it in case I break something.
    WordPress is becoming more and more IndieWeb competent, but it remains problematically opaque. In experiments, I never did get automated POSSE worked out, although it works fine doing it by hand. It’s bad enough converting the old Octopress files to Grav; I’ve no desire to go back to WordPress.
    On the other hand, there’s so much more interest in static sites, and I know a bit more. Maybe I could shift over to Hugo or Jekyll or something else and still get the benefits of IndieWeb.
    I can Tweet with ease, when I want, and knock stuff out to WithKnown (which will POSSE easily) and micro.blog, and the connection between those last two can only improve.
    Maybe I should save this site for longer pieces that reflect this particular me, the one that likes to write and likes to have something worthwhile to write about. Maybe I should embrace the ease of posting to WithKnown and make more of it here on the Mothership. At the moment, the sidebar shows some recent items from my Stream. I wonder whether it is possible to integrate the Stream more fully. An iframe, perhaps?
    And as for bringing over the old stuff from Octopress to Grav, I think I am going to be a bit more selective. That’s prompted by something else Colin Walker noted, the “importance of looking back in order to reflect and remember,” which Patrick Rhone said in a podcast.
    I’m glad I happened to select that post about my online journey to update yesterday.

    Geeky

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