It seems hypocritical to want to maintain privacy, when I run a website called The Do Not Enter Diaries devoted to filming teenagers in their bedrooms, their most intimate space, and taking that story into the public sphere. However, since an Internet image is, by nature, a curated and distilled version of oneself, I have the right to decide where to draw the line in terms of privacy. I draw that line at keeping my family, home address, and, um, you know, my Social Security number—all things that I would never share online.
Sometimes I do read an article or see a blog post—no matter how amazing—and get this self-conscious inkling that maybe the other people reading the article will think that the writer was the first to discover that band, new movie, vintage shop, artist, or whatever. There’s a self-imposed race to be the first one to write about something we love…as if being the first one to write about it online gives your interest a newfound validity. There’s never been one specific article, but if you look at the way the Internet reacted every time Tavi Gevinson blogged about a new interest, they put her on a pedestal, because they were often surprised that teenagers could ever have been that multifaceted and be interested in things from the past. Let alone did the media know that thousands of other teenagers were emoting these same interests, yet didn’t have the access to project their interests onto a public platform.
I think the line between my cyber self and real-life self is really blurred at this point. My Internet image is a product of who I am in real life, and vice versa. The main difference I’d say is that at my high school, I am labeled as the girl who hangs out in the art room all day. I go to a small private school and everyone knows me for The Do Not Enter Diaries, but in a way that is sort of isolating. Few others (besides my best friend who I run the site with) actually understand the language of the Internet in the same way I do. However, online I can access a whole other world, where I am able to obtain many of the same opportunities and jobs as adults, for which I am truly grateful.
My real-life friends are the people I turn to and trust with everything, but I’ve grown up in a really small community. The people I meet online are a window into creativity breathing out of places vastly different than my own life.
There is absolutely a destructiveness to Internet relationships—the idea of finding out everything about someone before you even meet them and can decide if you even really like them. Sarcasm doesn’t translate well over online messaging. Real-life relationships provide validation in a way that digital relationships only can mimic or get to on a very superficial level.
I hope that five years from now I can still maintain a distinction between who I am online and who I am in real life. With all of these social media sites that we use, people are constantly hoping to learn every last detail about a person, just from their online profiles. There’s a laziness to it, that because we’re able to chat with someone on Facebook about their music taste or their job, that this compensates for in-person interactions. I would like to think that five years from now we will revert back to spending as much time getting to know one another offline as we do online.
Emma Orlow | For being all of 17, Emma has a lot to say. She writes for various style sites and magazines. She started her blog, The Emma Edition, in February 2009, as a way to share cool fashion, art, and food findings she stumbles upon in her daily life. Most recently, she co-founded The Do Not Enter Diaries, a global web series devoted to telling the stories of teenagers through their bedrooms. She is the co-founder, interviewer, and website director of this series.