Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Becky Joins Google Plus and Realizes Just How Much She Misses MySpace

Remember MySpace?  I wrote a blog there for nearly five years, the first few of which were spent in glorious anonymity.  I wrote about my coworkers.  I wrote about people from college I no longer had contact with.  I wrote about that creepy guy at the grocery store who used to stalk me and is, to this day, the primary reason I avoid entering the Kroger in Bartlett...

And I did it all without fear of repercussion.  Who would ever know?  On MySpace, "Becky Heineke" didn't exist.  I was "Prophecy Girl," hiding behind a screen name like every other user, surrounded by people age 25 or younger.  It was 2006, and social networking was in its toddler phase, still bewildering enough to the general population to keep it fun for the rest of us.

The first time I wrote about Facebook being the downfall of the internet was, coincidentally enough, in 2006.  Even then I was baffled by its popularity, but that was the year the college requirement for membership was dropped in favor of an open door policy.  I feared that any network where I was known by my real name was a step in the wrong direction in terms of keeping my online activity private, and (for once) I was right.  Without meaning to or even consciously realizing it was happening, I moved with the times, and "Prophecy Girl" slowly lost her battle to "Becky."

As my name changed online, so did my identity.  Used to be, you could Google me and all that came up were a couple of embarrassing race results.  But by a couple of years ago, anyone who could fumble their way through spelling "Heineke" could find out what I looked I looked like, what social networks I belonged to, and could read all those old blog entries that seemed so hidden away when I first wrote them.  As more of "Becky" showed up online, I started thinking about what it was that people were seeing.  I started asking myself the question that everyone now contemplates, but just a few years ago didn't even exist:  Who was I to the internet?

Who was searching for me?  What were they finding once they found me?  How could I maximize my image to make them see what I wanted them to see?  I wanted people to think of me as creative, but focused.  I needed to acknowledge that my greatest claim to fame was through Jake Gyllenhaal, but also distance myself from being typecast.  Make myself seem employable, but stay true to my freewheeling worldview.  Look passably attractive, but keep it professional.  Come off as smart, but not as a condescending hipster-intellectual.  Embrace running, but make it clear I'm not a competitor.  Play up the book, downplay the self-publishing.  Keep online "friend" numbers low enough to suggest a life outside of the internet, but not so low as to appear anti-social.  Be impressive, but not intimidating.  Sell myself as the person I think I am (or at the very least who I *hope* I am) in the closest approximation to the real thing as possible, but without any of the grit (or blog entries about coworkers) that show any of it.

And WHATEVER I DO, I have to make sure that the specific version of the "real me" that I'm currently selling is one that fits best within the platform of each respective social media outlet.

When I got onto Google Plus for the first time yesterday (and thank you, Emily, very much for the invite), my curiosity over what the fuss was about quickly gave way to irritation when I saw that I actually already had a Google Plus profile.  It was my Google Buzz profile, which is also my Google profile, which I had filled out in a vain attempt to fulfill each of the qualifications I listed two paragraphs above.  And I didn't want to use any of that for my Google Plus profile.  Regular Google Becky is a different Becky than the Becky I envisioned as Google Plus Becky.

So what do I do now?  Do I start over?  Do I leave it as is?  Do I even bother with it?

Do I care?

The best part of the early days of social networking was the thrill of discovery:  discovering old friends, discovering new ones, discovering that there were people in the world who were like you because they were online too, at a time when not everyone else was.

Google Plus has the right idea in allowing you to form "circles" to separate your nuanced social life...

...but the more people pile onto the online world, the more appealing the social nuances of the real one become.

The real irony of this is that the "Becky Heineke" who exists online now...she's the one hiding behind a screen name.  The actual Becky Heineke was really only online for a brief time.  Back in 2006.  On MySpace.  And in those days, she went by the name Prophecy Girl...


  1. Yes i agree, thankyou Emily. I have no fucking idea what im doing over there though...

  2. You hit the nail every time, my friend! :-)

    I MISS YOU!!! (we'll talk sooon,yes? why is life so full of things that need to be done?!)



  3. Sam, me either! So far, all I can definitively say is that it's a little too hard to stalk people over there...

    Malin, I miss you, too!!!!! I can't even talk about the date stamp on the last e-mail you sent...I am TERRIBLE!! But YES! We will definitely talk soon. I hope all is well in your world!!! Tons and tons of hugs!!!!! :)

  4. Without having to promote me as a writer I understand fully what you saying.

    I for one just deactivated my xing account for instance, as I wasn't sure if I come across the right way to push my carreer.

    hummm - Becky ... HA! there it is, I always called you PG remember, and now with this post my initial "titel" for you is becky ... BUT what I wanted say was: we must have been parted at birth. Or we can use telepathy between us x)


  5. Sasha, your comments always make me laugh. :D I did it happen that what used to be such a free form of expression has turned into something so binding?! I was fortunate enough to go back and "re-categorize" a lot of my MySpace blog, making entries only visible to me, so that the worst stuff wouldn't be out there in public. And thank God I did it when I did. Now, MySpace has *totally* changed, and so has the blog feature, and you can no longer change your privacy settings.

    I don't know which is worse: worrying about your "image" all the time, or not being able to go back and change the parts of it that you want! It all just makes me want to spend less time online... :)

    P.S. Since clearly I am in the middle of some kind of online identity crisis, maybe it's good you always call me PG!! Maybe you were just addressing the "real" me all this time... :D