Personae Paralysis

mediaThe task this week required us to search for our own online tracks and traces. As my primary feeling about my social media presence is guilt about not effectively maintaining it, I was worried about what I might find. Working as an edtech consultant, my professional life is fragmented: I work as a contractor for a number of different companies as well as running a number of my own. This complicates the construction and maintenance of my online personae: I work in different roles, for different companies, in different places. I am acutely conscious of the convergence of these professional roles when, for example, I update LinkedIn: might my followers be confused about who I work for or what I do? This nervousness around what Meyrowitz (quoted in boyd, 2014, p.31) terms ‘collapsed contexts’ has resulted in a form of social media inertia where I have simply avoided the effective creation and curation of both my ‘formal’ and ‘networked’ selfs (Barbour and Mitchell, 2012). As boyd notes, “the ability to understand how context, audience and identity intersect is one of the central challenges people face in learning how to navigate social media.” (p.30). This challenge has resulted in a form of paralysis for me: I created a ‘formal’ online presence on LinkedIn some time ago and left it at that.

This week’s readings and activities have proved to be a call to action. Ignoring my presence, ignoring the need to develop a professional persona is not an option if I want to maintain professional credibility. As Turkle notes (quoted in boyd, 2014, p. 36), people who went online had to consciously create their digital presence. My presence is currently weak and outdated. Importantly, the lack of busy-ness on my social media profiles indicates (erroneously) a lack of busy-ness in my professional life. I am not effectively engaging in what Goffman (cited in boyd, 2014, p.47) terms ‘impression management’ and the impression ‘given off’ is one of inactivity.

As I have noted previously, online identity creation is about words; as Sundén states, creating a digital persona is about ‘people typing themselves into being’ (quoted in boyd, 2012, p.37). Stearn’s point is similar ‘ communicators must consciously re present themselves online.’ (quoted in Barbour and Mitchell, 2012).

So, this week I have:

However, I’m competing in an arena where my peers are actively creating impressive impressions of themselves and their work. So, for me, it’s now not enough to simply ‘do’; I have to show and tell.

boyd. d. (2014). Identity: why do teens seem so strange online. It’s Complicated: the social lives of Networked Teens, pp. 54-76 Available (full ebook text) from:
Ronson, J. (2015) How one stupid tweet blew up Justine Sacco’s Life. New York Times, 12th February 2015. Available from:
Barbour, K.  and Marshall, D.  (2012) The academic online: constructing persona through the www.  First Monday, 17(9) [Online].  Available from

2 Replies to “Personae Paralysis”

  1. Hello Helen,

    Yes I can see that collapsed contexts might be particularly troublesome if you have mutiple work roles, I’d not thought about this before. Are you sure about how important all of this is? I still wonder if personal recommendation works best for getting new work. What evidence would you need to collect to discover how much of this online persona management is really necessary for your goals?



  2. Hello Velda,

    Great questions; this week’s initial experiments with improving my social media presence have already had some positive results; I’m working up a blog post about this. (What I will say is, you’re right, not one of my contracts has, as yet, resulted from anything else other than a personal recommendation!)



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