social, prosocial, anti-social

I wanted to call this post, “blogging trumps life” but since that’s not strictly true, allow me to explain.

I had dinner with Meredith Farkas and Brian Smith last night, and we had a bang-up time talking about social software, libraries, television, arborists, etc. I’m in the middle of finalizing my schedule for ALA and I’m also in the middle of a mostly mutual split with my longtime partner (more details may wind up on my personal site, they will likely not be here). The reason this is apropos and these things are linked, is that I started this relationship before the dawn of most social software and the ubiquitous presence of “network” in my life, and I’m ending it afterwards.

This means that I need to figure out not only who gets the change jar, but also whether I should call myself single on my MySpace account [Did you know there is no way to leave your relationship status blank on MySpace?] or whether it’s possible to write down things that are happening in my life without stepping on toes or turning into a heart-on-my-sleeve tell-all blogger while at the same time, making sure I let my friends know what’s up with me. Do I take my ex off my buddy list? Do I remove his blog from my RSS feed reader? Should I stop commenting on his Flickr pictures or block him from commenting on mine? How many passwords do I need to change? Do I deauthorize his computer from my iTunes store? Miss Manners has very little guidance on these matters and yet in my world many of these choices have implications as deep or deeper than if I was pillaging his CD collection or changing the locks while he’s away (metaphorically speaking that is, in Vermont I don’t have a key to the place I live).

In an age where many people in the online world voluntarily give up certain amounts of privacy in the name of connectedness, figuring out how and when to get that privacy back — if you even want it — really drives home the social part of social software. This post began as a draft a few weeks ago which was just a list of the different ways that me, the real human who writes this site, exists in the multifaceted online world since I figure some of you are there too and maybe we could hang out, so I’ll wrap-up with that. If anyone is interested in connecting either in the real world of ALA or Vermont or elsewhere, or the online world of all these other places, please say hello.

Jessamyn’s Social Spaces
[in rough order of frequency of use]
chat: jessamyn_west at MSN/Yahoo, iamthebestartist on AIM, jessamyn at gtalk/gmail, iamthebestartist on Skype
blogs: this one, abada abada, booklist. I use livejournal to keep up with my friends who blog there, and I spend a little time at Vox [want a Vox invite? Email me]
jobs: Metafilter, moderator and user jessamyn
social stuff: Flickr,, Wikipedia, Technorati, LibraryThing profile and catalog,, LinkedIn, MySpace,, Facebook

It’s a long list, but rest assured I still take long walks by the river and read books in my actual public library. I’ve found that the balance between the super-techie online world and my wonderfully offline local area is one that suits me. See you at ALA, or see you online.

Posted in me!

29 thoughts on “social, prosocial, anti-social

  1. My heart goes out to you during this time. Though your words are very matter-of-fact, I know behind the assembled binary digits that your story has to hold some pain. I hope this period in your life is followed with many buckets of joy.

    Don’t know what your ALA schedule is like, but give a holler.

  2. Here’s another weird internet/social software thing: I don’t actually know you–we’ve never met, we’ve never had a conversation–but I like your blog and have it in my blogroll. And for reasons that are beyond me, you have a link to my blog up there on the right-hand side. So, there’s a strange and interesting connection there. I like what you have to say, and this post really touched me. Even my most amicable splits have been really hard, and it’s usually the odd little things–like who gets what, and how much do you mention to coworkers and acquaintances, and do you blog about it–that get me the most.

    Anyway, you discussed interesting, librarian-related issues here while also wearing your heart on your sleeve, and that’s damned impressive. Thank you. And my best wishes go out to you.

  3. My thoughts go to you at this time. I wanted to ask how do you keep up with all those accounts you list. I don’t mean to be less than serious. I really am curious how people do it. As is for me, I have one personal e-mail, the one I use in relation to blogging, then there is the blogs. I have not made a MySpace or Facebook due to not wanting yet another online account that I have to remember to look at now and then, but the work Brian Matthews has been doing on social spaces and preemptive reference intrigues me enough to want to take the plunge. Anyhow, any thoughts?

    By the way, I was fortunate to hear you speak at TLA. Thanks.

    Best, and keep on blogging.

  4. I just went (am going through) a similar situation. Since we decided to “stay friends”, we are basically still internet friends. That might change in the future but right now it’s working.

  5. Thanks all. Yeah this isn’t the easiest thing to deal with, but I must say, having the “social software safety net” of a lot of people, even if they’re not people I know very well, has been a real comfort. Even though I post a lot online in various places, there are still a lot of things I keep pretty private, and I’ve never been much of a public griever. When push comes to shove, I’m an okay compartmentalizer if there’s something else I want to get done. I’m sure this will be a process not just an event.

    Angel, I have a pretty quiet life here. I work part time, I live in a small town with not much to do and time other people might spend going to movies or shopping or watching TV, I usually spend online somehow. I don’t spend a ton of time at most of the sites I listed — only Flickr and MetaFilter are really “all day every day” stops — but just a little time when it’s every day adds up to a lot, especially when you can pay attention in micro-slices. The fact that my online world and my offline world have a lot of overlap — I’ll use IM to make plans to get together for dinner, or comment on someone’s blog to get their address to send them a postcard — means that I just don’t have the typical division betweeen work and home, offline and online.

  6. And I send you good thoughts from out west, too. If I don’t bump into you in person at ALA, I’ll surely see you hither, thither, or yon online. Take care.

  7. Thanks for the insights. My online and offline worlds don’t overlap as much, but I tend to spend a bit more time online versus things like TV and movies. Just personal preference I guess. For instance, I get most my news online, and I enjoy things like Rocketboom. I think part of what makes me ask questions is the privacy issues. I am not one who likes to reveal much. I did a Yahoo 360! page, mostly because I already have a Yahoo! account (for the e-mail I connect to my blogs), and while that one does not have as many features as the more popular brethren (MySpace, Facebook), even the little things like giving a name, a location, made me feel a bit odd. On the one hand, I would not mind using things like as another way to get in touch with other professionals, or students. On the other, I struggle with the how much to give out in terms of information. You would think an instruction librarian would not be so shy about some things. I guess in the end, I am just still working out what my boundaries are. Which now that I write this, makes me wonder about the kids who just jump in. I am trained professional, so I have some sense of what to keep private or not. A lot of the young people, savvy as they are, lack that. But that is another post probably better done by others with better insights. Best, and keep on blogging.

  8. I hope you’re doing ok. Take care. The long list of social subscriptions you have looks familiar to me, too. Myspace, various bulletin boards, Flickr, blogs, gmail,, regular mail, work mail, Wikipedia, skype, AIM etc……

    Take care, see you at ALA

  9. This is why I rejoiced that Friendster has an “It’s complicated!” denotation.

  10. So sorry to hear about the personal problems, Jessamyn…hopefully I’ll see you at ALA. First drink is on me!

    As far as the social software/’net identity stuff: it seems to me like this is the next new and exciting area of research on the interweb. There’s a number of people doing interesting things in this realm. If you haven’t seen/checked out claimID yet (, it’s a site that hope to help manage the multiple online identity stuff by letting you “claim” what’s yours.

    With the technological part said, the person-to-person interaction of “do I change my passwords now” is heartbreaking in a way I wouldn’t have expected.

  11. I am sorry for your situation. I am a firm believer that even those most painful moments in our lives make us stronger, more empathetic, and better people after we get past the pain. I am brand new to the blogging business, and I had not thought about some of the issues you brought up. I am trying to consider how I will use this new and exciting social technology in my personal life (I enjoy my privacy and anonymity) and with my students, yet still be able to protect both my students and myself. The more I learn, the more I recognize the tremendous potential for both good and harm.

  12. Update: after another talk with the ex — who I really expect to stay friends with once the really hard parts are over — here were some decisions we made. They seem bizarre and arbitrary, but were much harder to work out than who got the coffee maker.

    – removed him from my buddy list but we decided on IM as the best way to work out the inevitable details that came up. Email is too one way at a time, phone calls too hard to coordinate, and in person can be too rough. I added one of his accounts back to my buddy list and asked if he wouldn’t mind keeping the away message sort of bland
    – I told him to change passwords that I know. I think I’m trustworthy but felt better safe than sorry.
    – switched him from family to friend in Flickr
    – I never use the iTunes store so keeping him authorized is fine with me
    – mutually decided to change our status to “single” in MySpace and I may just stay away from MySpace generally. I’m technically divorced too, so I also like the “it’s complicated” idea above.
    – he’s still got access to my iCal on his machine and vice versa so that we can plan times for regular-ish meetings to touch base and swap mail
    – removed him from my network. Watching your ex bookmark in realtime is bizarrely fascinating and probably totally inappropriate
    – set iTunes to not look for shared music
    – agreed to blog civilly about each other, but issued no blog moratoriums. Neither of us is much of a tell-all so this isn’t super difficult.

    I know this sounds a little robot-girl-esque, but making lists and keeping stuff planned and in order is really calming for me. Jason, I will take you up on that drink if I see you.

  13. jessamyn, breaking up sucks. even when it’s mostly mutual and mostly easy, it’s still mostly painful.

    you work so hard and you work so hard for so many people. i hope you give yourself some time – time to just chill and reflect and get back on your feet.

  14. Can elsewhere (for meeting up) include Seattle? I’m still here after your recommendation to attend the iSchool in 2003, and I’m planning to stay now, even though when I arrived I didn’t want to stay. So thanks for that. And I’m sure you have piles of friends to stay with out here, but if you come back out and want a drink or a morning at the market + breakfast + visit to Left Bank, drop us a line. We’d have fun (& snark)!

    (Of course, if you need a place to stay PLUS all that other stuff, let us know about that too.)

  15. Yeah, strange. And here’s the other strange side:

    When you meet someone new, and there’s sparkage, you’re both digging each other…how long before you say, “Here’s the URL to my blog”? (Assuming the person doesn’t already know you have a blog.) How long before they can start making comments on your blog without you feeling somewhat uncomfortable, worried that they might post something…inappropriate? How long before you friend them on LiveJournal and MySpace and Flikr?

    Luckily, I haven’t had to deal with a break-up since I’ve started blogging and using social software, but I have had to deal with meeting new people, wondering when to let them into my virtual network. It’s definitely strange new territory.

  16. Hi Joshua, I’ve seen people talking about that very same issue in a different vein “should I Google my new interest?” In my life, a lot of the people I meet at least know I have an online presence and in many cases I’ve met them because of that (since I don’t have an online alter-ego, it’s just jessamyn everywhere unless that name was taken). Of course if you’re interested in someone you’d want to know something about them, but figuring out how much digging is appropriate and how to talk offline about what you know online (or vice versa) is a new challenge.

    It’s just a more multifaceted version of the “when do I switch from signing my letters ‘luv’ to signing them ‘love’?” but now we negotiate those waters with a much larger pool of people and state our relationships using other people’s (or companies’) words to a very fine degree of detail that shifts frequently andd is open to a larger degree of interpretation because there really isn’t a solid set of social norms on which to base even best guesses. Fascinating times.

  17. Jill isn’t much of a social software woman, but I told her about the split, and she asked me to share her condolences when I posted mine. We’re sorry the two of you are in such a rough place.

    Ironically, I read your post the day after Jill told me she was thinking she might want to go to law school. Since my sum total of couples that made it all the way through law school still together (I think the summer of the bar exam counts as law school) is back down to 1, out of roughly a dozen, I am not enthusiastic.

    If either of you find yourselves in Atlanta any time soon, we’d love to buy you a drink or have dinner.

  18. I keep saying I’m going to write a book about the unintended consequences of social software, in particular Flickr. So far this year, I’ve had work issues because I Flickred the half hour out of the day I was traveling to present and took a break, had personal issues come up because I Flickred someone too much, and had consulting issues because I was contracted to do something but Flickred when I was taking a break so it looks like I wasn’t working.

    More and more, I find myself questioning if posting a certain picture will “get me in trouble” whereas before, I didn’t give it a second thought. And yet, I still don’t stop. It’s fascinating in a “who’d a thunk it” way, isn’t it?

    I would add to the list who gets the DVR with all of the shows you both want to watch?

    I’m buying you a drink at ALA, too….

  19. My own problem is — if we broke up, who’d get custody of the massive (5000+) “backup” DVDs that we have. I bought the external burner, he paid for the netflix subscription, we split the cost of blanks.

  20. I have been reading your Abada Abada pages for about 3 years now, and feel like i know you and greg, but i don’t. The only things I know I have read on your web pages, and feel as though I have been with the both of you for that entire time. I am saddened by the break up, and am in shock, I’ve only seen the happy things and times that you both have shared. One entry you are asking us to send Greg a note about graduating and turning 30, and the next you are split up. My heart goes out to you both. One of the things that drew me to your blog was the your love of Vermont, I love Vermont too, and have a cabin off some back dirt roads near Killington. I hope you stay in Vermont, and work out what ever it is you need to. Best wishes always.

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  23. I did a Yahoo 360! page, mostly because I already have a Yahoo! account (for the e-mail I connect to my blogs), and while that one does not have as many features as the more popular brethren (MySpace, Facebook), even the little things like giving a name, a location, made me feel a bit odd. On the one hand, I would not mind using things like as another way to get in touch with other professionals, or students. On the other, I struggle with the how much to give out in terms of information. You would think an instruction librarian would not be so shy about some things.

  24. I must confess what you just mentioned has happened to several of my mates. I remember telling someone to keep only one social network as their main place of contact, while redirecting from all the others. With the current migration to Facebook I think it would be a obvious choice for many. Whilst some musicians would choose Myspace. Saying that me and many other social networking junkies love their presence everywhere.

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