Back in the early Middle Ages (kind of like the eastern part of the Midwest, right?) guys figured out that if they riveted tons and tons of tiny steel rings together, they could make something called chainmail. Some of my friends in college took up the hobby of making their own chainmail, and I must say, even as an avid knitter/crocheter, it did not look like fun work. Chainmail was heavy, so heavy that it had to be made specifically so that it wouldn’t leave huge gaps and openings due to its own weight. After all, huge gaps or holes wouldn’t do a super duper job of staving off swords, lances, and other such.
Eventually, guys figured out that all of those tiny little rings were sort of a pain in the butt (and really heavy), so they created something called plate armor. This is probably what you think of when you think about knights. All shiny and metallic and protected. Chainmail was still used for those little Lever 2000 type parts *cough* but plate armor was the thing. Everything was great. The combination of chainmail and the plate armor and the swords and the spears and the lances and the horses – it was all just magnifient.
Until it wasn’t. Because, you see, gunpowder was invented. Plate armor didn’t do so hot against gunpowder. Also, dudes started realizing that running around and doing things whilst wearing a steel factory was kind of tough and tiring. Armor, as pretty and as protective as it was, was moved on down to ceremonial status.
Your social media armor
It’s easy to come into the online world with your own armor on. Maybe you have a sort of chainmail that you link together – a finely tuned combination of approaches, “voices,” and personas that you rivet together around your real self. Maybe you are more a plate armor kind of person. You put on something really shiny and really strong, but what you have surrounded yourself with is so thick and awkward that people can’t really figure out who you are under there.
Now, wearing a little protective armor is probably a good idea, especially for those soft and squishy parts (I was thinking “heart.” I don’t know why you’re snickering). Wearing your heart on your Twitter handle can be dangerous business. But wearing 17 layers of armor may not be such a great idea either. That can get really heavy. It can still get blown up. And it can make it super easy for people to look at you weird. Why aren’t you being more open? Why are you full of bravado all of the time? Why do you seem so angry or so indifferent all of the time?
These things put people off in the online world. They’re not going to work hard to figure you out. There are too many unarmored people to choose from.
You have to choose your priority
As is the case with so many things in life, both online and offline, you have a choice to make. You can opt to emphasize protection. You can cover up your real identity. Heck, you don’t even have to show your face in your avatars if you don’t want to. You can fool Facebook and make it think your real name is Hamburger Burglar.
The other choice on the table is to remove some of that armor and risk the possibility that someone might hurt you somehow. But in the meantime, you are more open to people. You are more willing to reach out, to learn things, to chat, to share. And let’s face it, these things all do kind of make social media a bit more enjoyable, right? I think so, anyway. You might be able to move around a bit easier. You might look a bit less shiny, but then again, there’s plenty of personality bling that can make up for that.
What it really comes down to is how you want your online presence to go.
So, is it time to put your plate armor on display? Is it time to put your chainmail under the bed? Or are you still going to suit up in the online world? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/charlestilford/3091858085/ via Creative Commons