who do I think I am?

It’s funny because I was lying awake the other night thinking about writing a blog post about this and today I came acros Bon Stewart’s post about digitial identity and her PhD and she asks

Do you believe in a real, authentic core self? How does the idea of performance strike you? And who are you when you’re online?

Who do you think you are?’

One of my friends once said that I was always reinventing myself, which is an interesting idea – some of these reinventions involved massive shifts in my personal and political life. When I was younger these shifts/changes and choices were largely deliberate. As a child my parents moved often and I remember thinking that this presented an opportunity to change who I was. Of course in reality I always ended up just being me – that ‘inner core’ just represented differently to new and different audiences.

The concept of there being different audiences (as if my life is  a performance rather than just a beingness) is important because I used to try to box my life up – compartmentalise it – Louise the daughter and sister, Lou the radical feminist, Lou the sociable extrovert, Lou the Librarian, Lou the conscientious worker, Lou the wife, Lou the lesbian, Lou the Union rep, Lou the control freak, Lou the loving mother. This list could go on and on and should also include those negative Lou’s – the crap friend who always moves on, the heartbreaker, the whore, the liar, the selfish cow, etc. etc…

This blog was one attempt to bring together all my separate identities – although its a big cheat because I chose this site because I can categorise and tag to my hearts content so really it’s just a load of separate selves lumped in together. Do my work colleagues really want to read this ramble. Do they want to read about autism and home learning. Probably not. So not sure this works that well and sometimes it does stop me posting things – like rants – like this.

So how does the digital world change how  I represent myself or perform?

This image below links to a  set of self portraits on flickr and is called ‘being norma’.  On flickr I am norma desmond!being norma

I became norma on flickr in the moment it took to register – they asked for a screen name and I instantly thought of using a hollywood drama queen. norma’s persona grew and I developed a fairly strong social network – some relating to photography but a much stronger network around autism. I like being norma I made some real friends on flickr and crossed over from purely digital interaction to face to face contact.

Note I do not say from virtual to real contact… To me virtual contact with real people is as real as any other contact and as important. See also my post ‘immitation of life’ about my son and his virtual life…

The reason I have been thinking about this alot lately is that I will be 50 this year. I feel that I have already started to become invisible as an older woman. My performances have been affected. I have become fairly reclusive in the physical world but my virtual life continues it complex dramas – I can represent myself there in any way I want. Becoming older is seriously challenging my perception of my core self…  just hoping it’s not too shallow to take me through this transition.

there will be more posts on this subject as I’ve only just got started…

By |January 27th, 2011|personal|8 Comments


  1. Bon January 27, 2011 at 5:18 pm - Reply

    love the response. also the Norma Desmond shot.

    sometimes i think of social media as all of us, tragic and poised and needy and afraid of disappearing, ready for our closeups. someday i’ll have to write a post on that.

    interesting how you note that here is your space for all of you, all the different identities. i like that. and yet it challenges my own use of my blog(s), even from the beginning, because i started mine so as to have a place to speak the ‘me’s that were outside the bounds of polite speech AND at the same time more child & parenting focused than my real-life identity allowed for. and then i grew a community around that blog and lately realized i needed a new front porch for that online home, one where i could write about Judith Butler without feeling like i was disengaging from the people who come to read about my kids. i dunno. it’s uncomfortable to think about because it makes me own that part of the performance is audience, and societally, that’s taken up as inauthentic. one of the places where social media is pushing other conversations and concepts that may have grown outdated.

  2. Lou Mcgill January 27, 2011 at 6:56 pm - Reply

    Hi bon

    I was going to give my next post on this the title ‘not ready for my close-up’ ; )

    for me social media transformed my understanding of audience. I had not taken photos for over 20 years and suddenly discovered a creative outlet and a place to play and learn and connect. I did some collaborative work with several people too. I also had a photographic exhibition as a result.

    The disappearing that I am experiencing is only in my physical life but in a way the social media allows me space to stay here and declare my place/s.

    My thoughts in trying to have one space for multiple audiences relates to the way social media has transformed our lives – things are not done in one place anymore, there is, maybe, only a need for one stage…

    • brainysmurf April 18, 2012 at 6:44 pm - Reply

      What a thoughtful post! The idea of disappearing physically but staying visible digitally reminds me of the very first music video I recall seeing: Aha’s “Take on me”, which was part film and part animation. I think of you occupying both of those worlds simultaneously. How cool!

  3. mary g January 27, 2011 at 7:31 pm - Reply

    One question that I have is: how locked into 1950’s and 1960’s sense of identity am I, born in 1942? And following, how much can I change, grow, be an ageless, single self, in a medium where there are no prior expectations.
    Working on that. Fascinated by seeing you two working on it also.

  4. Lou Mcgill January 27, 2011 at 7:57 pm - Reply

    Hi Mary

    I think your point about there being ‘no prior expectations’ is the key – we can re-invent ourselves.

    But on the other hand young people’s lifes are recorded/preserved in a way that ours were not. It may not be so easy for them to live with their identities/mistakes so obviously on show.

  5. amber thomas January 27, 2011 at 9:39 pm - Reply

    This post really chimes with me, its an interesting proposition to think about what’s at the core of someone.

    I often have a sense of little amber looking out of grown-up amber’s eyes, as grown-up amber goes about her business of being a mum, being at work, being a friend, being a wife. I don’t think little amber is very convinced by grown-up amber, even though everyone says we’re doing fine, even doing well.

    Is it my age? Will I ever believe in it? It’s a bit Talking Heads (This is not my beautiful husband, this is not my beautiful house! … )

    When I got married I double-barrelled my name (so did my husband). I kept my maiden name for work. When I joined my work/social network on twitter, I used my maiden name for that too. On the internet the married-mum-me is invisible. It wasn’t really for privacy. It’s because I seem to be treating my identity as a spouse/parent like a man does: in a totally separate box, on a need-to-know basis.

    Is that wrong? Or is it a new phenomena as women manage to have full working lives as well as families?

    • Lou Mcgill August 13, 2011 at 11:11 am - Reply

      Amber sorry – I realise that I never responded to your comment. I so know what you mean about the child watching and not being very convinced. I don’t know if it’s an age thing? I suspect not though – perhaps we will carry on doing this until there is nothing left but our online remnants (still there for a while).

      The issue of separating our lives – is it about being taken seriously? How can a person who has so many other facets be taken seriously in one of them. maybe it’s about the changing nature of our society too. We are less and less specialists now – maybe the time for generalists has come back and whole people can be seen and valued….

  6. Identity Online « Jenny Connected March 24, 2012 at 5:49 pm - Reply

    […] then similarly – almost coincidentally I came across Lou McGill’s blog post about identity and through her Bon Stewarts blog […]

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