Per aspera ad astra

Online Me

January 27th, 2009

My first assignment for one of my courses (Open Source, Open Access, Open Education) was to write an introduction to ourselves, in part defining who we are online. Here’s my go at it:

In a sense, the Web and I grew up together. I’m only two years younger than the original Macintosh and when I was a toddler the Internet had just evolved past its acronymatic ARPANET, et al. incarnations to become more recognizable as the accessible global network we know today.

While computers never defined my childhood as they do for many growing up now, I can still trace the progression of my maturity through my former AOL screen names: from the parent-created luvbks (love books), to the rebellious bsb1427 (liking boy bands seemed rebellious at the time), to the slightly cooler tennisplayamandy. My search engine of choice? AskJeeves. The Y2K frenzy struck as I turned the awkward age of 15 and was trying to figure out how *I* was going to survive to 2000 (survival being contingent on having the proper wardrobe and friends, of course).

Then of course I went off to college, shed AOL forever, and met Google. I got my first laptop, became eternalaurora (on Pidgin) and started checking my email daily (a requirement at my college). Within three years of undergraduate study, my liberal arts education, with the help of the Internet, had defined the person I was becoming and am today. Facebook hit my campus in early 2005, about the same time that Wikipedia had become the ultimate quasi-academic time wasting tool.

So who am I now online?

I text, I blog (latitudebylongitude.com), I tweet (twitter.com), I Skype, I Stumble (stumbleupon.com) and I’m LinkedIn. I have fifteen stations on Pandora and 168 books on Goodreads. I stay connected with my Russian friends on VKontakte and ICQ, my Korean friends on Windows Messenger,  and my US friends on Facebook and Pidgin.

For as involved as I am in the online world, my ubiquitous moniker enables me to slip into anonymity (as anonymous as any connected twentysomething can be). According to the following search engines, Amanda Ross is one in:

Facebook: More than 500
PeekYou: 762
MySpace: 9,410
Google Search: about 3,810,000

And if you believe Wikipedia, I’m rated as the most influential person in British publishing.

In many ways, my generation got lucky. My transition into this open society has been steady, but gradual- following the course of my adolescence and early adulthood. I know how to use an iPhone and subscribe to RSS feeds almost daily. Though I’m not dependent on technology to get by (my sister, six years younger, texted up a $200 phone bill without breaking a sweat and can’t go a day without her MySpace),it’s hard to imagine my world without it. I have found my last four jobs (language camp chef, ESL instructor, SAT instructor, study abroad advisor) on the Internet, I bought all of my living room furniture on Craigslist, and I saved $100 getting my laptop on Amazon. Mindful of concerns about privacy and being ‘too open’, I must also be aware that openness (and adaptability to that openness) is what our society embraces these day and find a healthy, rational compromise.

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If I give you a penny, you will be one penny richer and I'll be one penny poorer. But if I give you an idea, you will have a new idea, but I shall still have it, too.

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