Attended the Christopher “moot” Poole keynote yesterday at SXSWi. Though he has 12 million visitors to the site he created almost 8 years ago at the ripe ol’ age of 15, I have to say I had not heard of Poole and his 4chan image board. Nevertheless, I thought what the now-22-yr-old had to say about identity was rather interesting. In essence, he’s the anti-Zuckerberg. While Facebook is all about knowing people’s identity, 4chan is all about not knowing – remaining anonymous in order to say what you really feel. While it can be debated whether this level of anonymity is a healthy thing or a cloak to hide behind in order to say hurtful and negative things that should never see the light of day, I did like this point by Poole: it has become harder and harder to reinvent ourselves.
When I started high school, my family had just moved to the area. I had no history with these people, just a clean slate to say “Hi, I’m Starr” and define myself from there. Sometimes, it’s refreshing to have that opportunity to just start over. These days though it is a very rare thing that I don’t already know about a person’s work history (LinkedIn) or kids and pets (Facebook) prior to shaking their hand. What does this mean for our ability to change and grow? How do we become our best selves when others perceive us to be a real-life version of our online avatars?
Perhaps we get offline. Or we’re more careful in what we share online. Or we evolve our online personas as much as our offline personalities. Either way, let’s just not stop growing – and agree that there is always more than what meets the eye.