Embarassing Email Addresses and The New Person

The most interesting difference since 2007 is a strange one, since it’s conventional to imagine that the relationships between people have changed. What this doesn’t do is acknowledge that the actual definition of what a person is has changed. Prior to the really big expansion of the use of the internet (when I started undergrad), when you talked about a person on the internet, you were talking about a person *using* the internet, a USER, who could just as easily drop the little bits of themselves they’d put out there and disappear. You had a friend from high school, their MySpace page gets deleted, and they’re gone until you go find them in “real life”. But at some point, after we begin to depend on this technology enough, it becomes inseparable from us–you cannot, after all, ever really delete a Facebook page, or stop using an email address, because the information is not wholly private, and thus not wholly containable. A part of you is in here.

Think, for instance, about how email use has changed. The embarrassingly verbose, ridiculously fetishistic email addresses of the early century are nearly gone (except for socially awkward moments of realization, when they pop back up), and people tend to centralize around one or two or three addresses, instead of just getting a new one and naming it something silly. It went from being a screenname to an address, that you have to give out to other people.

There’s also the moment of absolute panic the moment something is accidentally shared or deleted–it’s mourning and self-panic now, instead of the same phenomenon as misplacing car keys. It’s the idea of the person that’s been redefined.

One thought on “Embarassing Email Addresses and The New Person”

  1. Interesting thoughts–I remember those “fetishistic email addresses” from the early 2000s. I still use my first email address for junkmail.

    Before the advent of a digital reality, people cultivated their personas, too. I remember learning in elementary school that there were some things about myself that weren’t safe to discuss around certain people. I remember a “friend” in 4th grade who would have me over to play and we’d have a great time, but she confessed that, at school, I wasn’t cool enough for her to be friendly with. I’m sure that would have been FB friends and she would have occasionally “liked” a photo and been very friendly via private message, but she would have kept her virtual distance even so.

    I guess what I’m positing is that the impulse is the same but the product is different. Are the digital names we choose for ourselves and the identity we project online are more permanent (as you point out, we can’t ever delete a FB page) and planned (I find that I’m more likely to blurt out something I regret than write it down and publish or even email it) than in-person spoken communication. What do you think?

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