Rabi just posted back-to back entries about her identity as it relates to the internet. I haven’t linked Rabi once within the last week (as is generally my habit), and i don’t want to clutter up her comments as badly as i did for some of her other identity posts, so i thought that i’d comment right here, in my own fashion.
When i first got my account on America Online it was just after Christmas; i was fourteen years old and i didn’t really understand what the internet represented past a slew of AOL chatrooms and WebCrawler, and my screen name was PeterPCM. Everything was fun and rosey, but as i slowly began to learn a little more about how things worked and about the places one’s email address could wind up i wasn’t entirely comfortable with my name being so up front. When i got off of AOL that summer my email address went through a brief transition, and by my fifteenth birthday that September i had signed on with Erols with the login Krisis.
By that time i was already deep into the continual construction of my first Geocities webpage, which started over five years ago – sometime during the summer after my Freshman year of highschool. That webpage and that identity stayed wholly separate from myself for years; because my email address has stayed so consistent over the years i wound up establishing an actual identity to go with it. There have people who i’ve met and lost touch with who never knew me as anything other than a nebulous androgynous entity named Krisis, and i loved it. After the first incarnation of my webpage finally ended i created a new webpage that was more contingent upon my identity due to my songs and voice appearing all over it, but people still wound up asking me if i was a girl or a boy after i sent them there to answer their own question. For all of my pre-college summer i posed as a female character in an online roleplaying game and never once had my identity questioned or revealled. I was content and secure.
However, in college my treasured anonymity began to accumulate chinks in its armour despite my solid facade. All during Freshmen year my web identity became more and more entwined with my presence on Shafted, where Krisis was my posting handle. I couldn’t very well be anonymous and androgynous while talking about my own life and friends, and so i let down my guard and finally owned up to things like my sex, age and location. I still admantly refused to use my first name while ‘in character’, which was evidenced by most Shafted posters not knowing what to call me when they actually met me in real life. And, otherwise, things stayed aproximately the same.
Everything changed three hundred and sixty days ago, when i plugged my ftp information into blogger and began to deluge the internet with an amplified version of my interior monologue. Immediately i ran into conflicts… i didn’t mention my name anywhere in the blog and my ‘about’ page was deliberately vague about my identity, but to have a ‘blog’ i needed to have an identity and a voice of my own. Slowy but surely i crept into my online presence and edged some of the pieces that had been there as placeholders for facets of my own personality that i had been protecting, and at the same time i held on to facets of my internet voice that were routed deeper in my own self than anyone would’ve ever suspected. Despite these changes, i was still resistant, only mentioning my name sparingly in the context of songwriting and in conversations about me until it was nearly 2001; a search of the archives mostly turns up unending praise of Peter Mulvey. Even as my name finally spread through the internet through things like SurvivorBlog2 and Amy‘s mentions of me i persisted in signed comments and emails with ‘Krisis’ rather than ‘peter’.
As of now i’m just confused. Comments at LYD, Wockerjabby, UnNarrator, and Crezappy all alternate my monkier with my actual name depending on what information the cookies on my computer decided to remember. Emails to the notify list get my name, but emails to Tori lists still get Krisis despite the fact that Outlook on my work computer lists “Peter” as my reply name. And, because i send so much email at work, my student address has been the one most ‘internet people’ i talk to are seeing rather than my alias name.
Where have i wound up? Full circle from the start, i suppose, seeing as an email from me typically reads as From: “Peter [pcm22]” (which isn’t a far cry from “PeterPCM”). My “identity” is another matter entirely… more than four years playing the role of someone who wasn’t quite myself has left a lasting impression on my narrative voice on the internet whether i like it or not. Since i stopped writing fiction around when my first webpage saw its prime i literally have a gap in my personally recorded narratives where the only ones i wrote were for the internet – meaning that my internet voice literally usurped my typical one on the whole in my writing. In fact, now it even reaches far into term papers, official letters, and reports at the office.
Admittedly, it still feels weird sometimes to talk about my hair or my weight or to appear on my webcam, but i think at this point i have irrevocably entangled myself with whoever i had become in the same way what that i had become hijacked my own written communications. So, now my split personalities have been reigned back in to one manageable boy, and i’m left wondering what this newly merged boy’s real voice is on this log … the frantically paced, parenthetically snarking, self-derisive narrator of a year ago – or this newfound one complete with at-length reflections, somewhat credible grammar and syntax, and through-composed essays.
I suppose part of the fun of reading me must be watching me try to decide. Or, at least, part of the fun of writing me certainly is.