Monday, August 1, 2011

Stranger on a Plane Phenomenon

Who are you online?

I’m beginning to wonder if we all don’t have an online persona, sort of like we have an ‘I’m going to a party’ persona that’s unique from our ‘tucking our kids into bed’ persona.

I’ve thought a lot about Internet accountability lately. It’s so easy for someone to spew a comment resembling cat vomit and decide never return to the blog they commented on again. It reminds me of the whole stranger on a plane phenomenon. You can become anyone for a two hour plane ride. You can invent a dynamo alias. And none would be the wiser.

But is that wise?

Words, no matter where they’re shared, are potent. And there are ways to track comments and the verbal trail. This world can indeed be a small world when it comes to online interactions.

We are more than strangers on a plane. Or another way to put it…the world = one gigantic plane.

I’ve found in some respects I portray my truer feelings online, my layered self.

This makes sense. Writing has always been able to draw me out, tugging me from my introverted (yes, I wrote introverted…go figure) shell.

I’m at home here.

Are you? And do you feel like you online? Have you noticed evidence of the stranger on a plane phenomenon?

*I’m honored the lovely Keli Gwyn chose to feature me on her Writers on the Journey blog today (afternoon). Please swing by to say hello. I’m vulnerable, candid, and the same me you’ve encountered elsewhere online.
**photo by flickr


  1. I ust recently i read a post on Psych-central along similar lines...i will share the link with you (
    I try to be a true representation of myself in all aspects of my life (right enough i try not to say/post/ how i truly feel when i am angry :) )but i have definitely seen "multiple personalities" in people online, in life, outside of work, inside of work. Isn't that a difficult job to keep up with all that?

  2. I'm a little more careful online, I think. I watch my filter more, because reading someone's words can be taken differently if you can't hear their tone. I believe you wrote a post about it (sarcasm) not too long ago. But, the more relational I become with others, the free-er (?) I become.

    When I first started blogging, becoming visible online, I was a little intimidated--I'm feeling much more at home now. Great post, Wendy!

  3. You are so right, sister. It's so easy to put on a persona online. But it's also easy to be ourselves. Sometimes even more so than we are in face-to-face relationships. Because we have the safety of being ourselves from behind our computers. There's something very appealing about that.

    I can't wait to read your interview!

  4. I agree with Jessica. I think I am a little more careful online. The more comfortable I get, the less "careful" I am, but sometimes I'm afraid to take risks.

    Looking forward to your visit over at Keli's.

  5. I am more careful online for the same reason Jessica pointed out - all we have are words. No facial expression, inflection and body language to deliver the full message. But I'm also more "me" online. I'm introverted, too, and tend to observe more in real life. Online, I'm more likely to jump into a commenting on blogs. :)

  6. I am who I am. I try really hard to portray my real self because someday I just might meet that person. And I LOVE meeting people on planes! Awesome!!

  7. I would hope that if I were to meet people who know me online that they would find that same person. Actually I would hope they would find even more to me. Online is wonderful, but in the skin as we like to say, you really can't beat :) Lxx

  8. I'm pretty much a spaz when I'm on planes too. I'm fairly representative of myself on my blog, perhaps a bit nicer on occasion, since my words are cached.

  9. I'm such a WYSIWYG person. Online, on a plane, in a box, with a fox. :)

    My trouble comes when I expect everyone to be the same way. Yep, that's come back to bite me before. :(

  10. I'm a natural homebody and very shy, so I just love the internet for socializing and researching. I suspect online buddies know me better than those I know in person in many ways because I definitely say more in keystrokes than verbally.

  11. I'm much more myself online. I feel safer here, though I don't know why.

    As far as cat vomit goes . . . It's a small world after all. Even on the world wide web. Never burn bridges!

  12. I try to be myself, but like you said, there are so many layers to me, and all of us. I rarely show my grumpy, impatient side. Should I?

    This is a different world. We can delete, edit, and revise ourselves here; we can't do that at home. Wish I could!

    This is a thought-moving post,Wendy.

  13. Interesting thought! I've shared a part of myself online, but there are aspects that haven't been revealed yet. I suppose I could say I was a superhero (like on that plane ride:) but that wouldn't be true. Best I stick with my real self and dispense info as the Lord leads.

  14. My online persona is definitely me...or at least a part of me, I should say. I'm not prone to share my deepest darkest thoughts online, though. There are certain struggles that are better shared with a small group of trusted friends rather than broadcast to the world.

  15. KC, That's what I think, too hard to maintain all those personalities. Why split it when you can have it whole? ;)

    Jessica, I filter certainly as well. But I've learned to do this in life. I try really hard to watch my words and not to lash out or just dump on others. God helps me clean up my mess a lot on this one (key word = try).

    Thanks, Katie. Interview is up. It's safe and entirely risky for me being online. I take crazy risks, but it's no different than I would in person. I'm nutty like that.

    Heather, Thanks for your support at Keli's (your words). I know what you mean about having that comfort level. There's something to be said for waiting for that.

    Kristie, I think this is the exact reason I OD on emoticons. I pray people know my intentions, but here's the cool thing, I'm good at saying sorry and admitting my faults. Someone calls me out, I'll hear them out.

    Terri, I would rather like to meet you on a plane. Man, we'd have a good long talk!

    Sista, I couldn't agree more. In person rules, but I also hope I'm portraying the me inside the me on here. I hope that's coming across and I'm really diggin' on that word hope right now.

    Chris, You make a good point. I'm not grumpy on my blog like I can be when I'm tired, hungry, disappointed (wow, won't let that list continue).

    Erica, I feel you on that one. Praying I'm a WYSIWYG too.

    Eileen, Yeah and the words formulate better for me coming from my fingers rather than my mouth.

    V.V., I get you. For me it's more than the safe thing, it's that I feel I do a better job, respresent my true feelings better if I'm writing them rather than saying them.

    Jeanette, Oh yes, great point about editing and deleting. I do a ton of that on here, so now YOU are the one making me think. Hmm.

    Karen, I think you nailed it with your last the Lord leads. I think He leads me to take risks and be vulnerable b/c I've been shown too many times in the past how that's helped others. So I suck it up and do it, even though it's caused me pain in the past.

    Sarah, Yeah, I don't share the deep, dark stuff, but I hint at some of it and maybe I will share some of that in the right setting online someday. Sometimes, if done right, that stuff can help others heal. But I'm not much for dumping, venting or slandering others. I'd pray I'd do with the intention to help.

    Thanks for making this a conversation. Am loving being over at Keli's. Swing by. It's live now!
    ~ Wendy

  16. I definitely feel like I express myself more clearly online. In life, besides laughter, I find it difficult to express emotions, and uncomfortable. I'm guess in that way I'm private, although I don't have a problem talking about things. It seems to me that every place in life the environment pulls out different things in us. I love online though. Definitely feels like home. ;-)

  17. I'm thrilled to have you as my guest at Romance Writers on the Journey, Wendy, and am loving all the comments being left by members of the Wendy Paine Miller Fan Club.

    I share a large part of myself online, but I don't like to bore people with my rants, pet peeves, and other downers. Life has enough negative, so I prefer to be uplifting and positive as much as possible.

  18. I'd like to think that I'm the same at home as I am at "the office" aka, online. I think I can be bolder online because it's writing and I'm invited to comment. You aren't always invited to comment on real life. In fact, it's often discouraged. However, I feel that I'm becoming more myself on and off screen. I do know, though, that some people have very few real life friends and most of their connections are online.

  19. A thought: do you suppose novelists tend toward being introverted (or at least socially shy) because they feel more comfortable showing their feeling and their *true* selves through characters and stories? I know it's a false assumption that we project ourselves into our characters (I would hate to be some of the characters I've created). But on the other hand, if we've poured our soul into the work, the work itself can't help but say something about who we really are. And perhaps that aspect of our personality is one we don't feel comfortable sharing face-to-face. Even if it's a positive quality (e.g., the guy who writes romance novels but doesn't feel comfortable showing affection). Just a thought.

    Good, thought-provoking article, Wendy! This is my first time commenting on your blog. I found you via your comments on Rachelle Gardner's blog.

  20. Wendy:
    We all have certain sides to our personas. When I am online, I some times can respond with wit. Other times, with seriousness.
    In real life, it works the same with me. I called two friends this morning, one wasn't feeling well. I spoke to her differently than I usually do. The second lady was joyous about her sister's health improving after one year. She told me a joke which was funny. I laughed heartily.

    Sometimes, I get deeper in my thougths when I am online. And yet, I am careful not to go very deeply into my personal issues. I save those for my close, real life friends.

  21. I guess I'm willing to believe people's real colors show through eventually. I tend to see people on the internet through the personality they portray. I'm assuming most of it is real. And BTW, you are one of my favorite online people! One of these days girl, you and I are going for coffee! =)

  22. I have! This is so weird. I'm writing a post dealing somewhat with this issue as I type. I actually feel like a stranger to myself on my blog, which is something I get into more detail about in the post. This is interesting stuff to think about.


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