Can Online Identity Shape IRL Presence?

March 12, 2014

benabiosxswI had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Jeff Benabio speak at SXSW.

Here’s how he opened:  “By day I work with Kaiser Permanente; by night I’m @dermdoc.”

I’ve introduced myself the same way many times.  Tongue-in-cheek, we play our digital presence as some other part of ourselves.  A space and identity separate and distinct from real life.  I’d say this is the rule rather than the exception.  Sociologist Nathan Jurgenson has called this digital dualism.

Going forward I suspect that this ice breaking comment won’t make much sense.  Our digital selves will meld with our medical meat space identity.  The digital divide will decay into a charming bit of history.

And perhaps the online/offline relationship is shifting.  Eric Schmidt in The New Digital Age notes,

“The shift from having one’s identity shaped off-line and projected online to an identity that is fashioned online and experienced off-line will have implications for citizens, states and companies as they navigate the new digital world.”

I’ve known Jeff for some time but had never met him.  I will add that he’s as brilliant and gifted a communicator in person as he is online.   Or perhaps it’s the other way around.

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Mike Sevilla, MD March 12, 2014 at 11:42 am

In the past (like 5 years ago), I felt that there was a difference between your online image and your in person image. I always looked forward to comparing the person I see in the flesh to the person I “saw” online. But not so much anymore. For the “online personalities” who have stayed around, there is a evolution from digital dualism to digital reality where your online personality IS your personality. There are no smoke screens left….

Bryan Vartabedian March 12, 2014 at 11:52 am

Indeed. You can tweet but you can’t hide…

Eric Benchimol, MD March 12, 2014 at 5:54 pm

Interesting perspective! Is the talk available online yet?

John Lynn March 26, 2014 at 11:56 am

What’s even more interesting is when your night personality becomes your day job. I still think it’s a powerful and beautiful thing that such a transition is even possible. I think most of us underestimate what we could do with our online personality.

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