One train of thought that’s been running my mental railways hard lately is that of my perception. Not in the internal possessive sense, but the outwardly projected one: the impression I give off to others. It’s not new by any means, but the feedback after that recent failed final interview brought it roaring back to life. For the most part, I consider myself indifferent towards what others think of me. After so many years in self-imposed isolation and that from quarantining throughout this COVID pandemic, my sense of self is highly insulated against external opinion. Yet at the same time, I’m cognizant that identity and reputation are a timeless invisible social currency, one that I’ve long abstained from making a legitimate investment in.
We all have an estimation of how others perceive us, in the sense that they would describe us to another person on a superficial level. To that end, I could think of a few possible adjectives and qualities my friends might use to describe me. But as far as what others really think of me, in that raw honest unfiltered sense? I have no idea. And when I look at the digital footprint I’ve created as myself or behind my online username, the persona that can be pieced together from them is a partial and outdated aspect of myself.
I’ve ruminated before on the greatly reduced anonymity of the modern internet landscape and how it’s affected my engagement, as well as the desire to do something about it…which has only led to further contemplation as to what to do: archive it all and wipe the slate clean, maintain a second public-facing online persona, and so on. Each time I’ve done so, I’ve ultimately ended up choosing to defer it to another time.
As a result, not only have I denied myself an archive of activity—never mind older existing activity that I accidentally deleted—but I’ve also made myself a static entity. The relationship runs both ways: just as my internet moniker can easily be traced to me, so too is it associated with me among those who know me personally. In fact, I have many close personal acquaintances who first knew me as the username “thechexican” long ago. To “research” myself from the perspective of a stranger yields a very unimpressive result.
Branching out from that is also a sudden awareness of perception within the local community as well. Despite living where I do for almost a decade, I only know the faces of people in my building, and the owners/staff of the local store & restaurants I frequent. It’s not an urgent need, but that is something I’ve been passively working on. I’ve put a lot of time and effort into building a small garden out on the street-facing balcony, and have been extending the effort to greet and/or have passing conversations with strangers when out on walks.
So with in mind, it’s finally time to do some upkeep in this regard. A large part of the lack of engagement has been this sense of a digital placeholder for my idealized self, something to tend to once my day-to-day self was aligned with the person I feel I should be. But that is a folly, working with the hypothetical instead of that which is. There was a time i used to digitally chronicle myself with genuine interest, passion, and confidence. Like everything else these days, that’s in need of a reboot.