Compartmentalization

Double the fun! I’ve gone into the archives and published “Signal to Noise,” a previously unpublished entry from August of last year. You should probably read that first, as it goes hand-in-hand with this one.


My attempts at compartmentalization have failed. There is only one inbox.

On the down side (that was the up side), there is no “off the clock.” There is no “not on company time.” There is no “not speaking on behalf of…” Disclaimers to the contrary are commonplace, well-rehearsed, and futile. Technologies that “help” us to link our disparate personas will inevitably intertwine them with our impersonas too. There are no “strictly personal venues.” And when nothing can be said without being misconstrued, there is nothing left to be said.

My attempts at compartmentalization have failed. There is only one outbox.

Mark Pilgrim, One

It’s almost relieving to witness someone as well-known as Mark Pilgrim, running headfirst into this very issue.[1] This is the one demon that prevents me from posting draft after draft of blog prose. There is a crippling fear and question, “what if my personal thoughts and my professional persona are irreconcilable?”

I once made the mistake of mixing the much-too-personal with my blog, years ago — and, judging from the volume of entries I’ve published, I’ve practically been sitting on my hands, since.

But why compartmentalize? Why build those walls to divvy up our lives?

There is a fine line that separates “transparency” from “way too personal,” and it’s a line I regret crossing before. But I think I’d rather be judged as Mike Tigas — mistakes, missteps, misadventures, and all — than project a “manufactured” identity under my own name.

As a self-employed freelancer — whose brand is his name — I’m not sure I see the utility of having separate “professional” and “personal” lives. And even in general: work and home are very different places, but throughout the day isn’t it still the same life you’re living? (In some professions there will be exceptions to this, I’m sure.)

Online, sacrificing your identity for the sake of image is folly — your pseudo-identity just becomes a pretense, like you’re just a marketing gimmick for the product or brand you represent. And if that brand is you — is the dog walking the master at that point? (At what point does your brand stop representing you, but rather you represent what you wish it could stand for?)

I’m not saying you should talk “inside baseball” in the open. I’ve been under NDAs and I’ve in situations without ’em where openly discussing my work could be disastrous. But I suppose my point is censorship of personality: who you are in either environment shouldn’t differ all that much. You’re you. Everyone makes mistakes. If someone really wants to find something incriminating on you, they probably will, despite your best efforts. If you aren’t comfortable being yourself, then who are you?


…I’m working on that answer. I’ve been working on it for as long as I can remember, actually — winging it, floating between hobbies and work that I enjoy, looking for “a fit.” I graduate in six weeks. That will only be the beginning, I’m sure.


[1] In fact, a couple bloggers I follow and idolize share that common theme. (I don’t really know what that says about me.) Pilgrim lost his job over a post regarding alcoholism and addiction. Heather Armstrong’s work rants also got her fired.

Even now — nearly ten years since both lost jobs over blogging — the way they write is still intriguing and very human to me. Doesn’t hurt that they both ooze wit and charm through their writing. Compared to other blogs I follow out of topical interest, I follow them (and some others) just for the prose and writing style.

…And it probably helps their case that Pilgrim now works for Google and that Armstrong is possibly the most widely read female blogger today. Minor details.

On reality and authenticity

Mark Lamster, returning from a trip to Las Vegas:

Drinks at Prime Meats, in Brooklyn, with my wife. Realistically, this place is as much an artifice as anything on the Strip, a re-imagining of a 19th-century saloon, complete with polished bar, antique typography, Edison bulbs. Why, then, does it feel so much more honest? Because its aesthetic is filtered through a contemporary sensibility? Because it seems a natural part of a vibrant neighborhood? Is this all bullshit I invent to make myself feel more comfortable?

Mark Lamster, What Am I Doing Here? Tall Buildings and High Anxiety in Las Vegas


Carnegie Mellon Professor, Jesse Schell, on the psychology of games: Video here. It’s good in it’s entirety, but the relevant parts start at about 10:25. Segment quoted below starts at about 12:15:

Go look at TV — the people on TV, their heads are spinning! Everything is about reality TV. Go to the grocery store: it’s not just groceries anymore! Organic groceries — they’re more genuine, they’re more real groceries. You go to McDonald’s, and a Big Mac — well, you could get a Big Mac, or you could get the real burger, the Angus Burger, made with real this and that and whatever. Everything’s suddenly about reality.

[…] Gilmore and Pine put forth this interesting concept: that the most valuable thing in products today is are they real, are they authentic. Which is a bold hypothesis. And then they go further and they say, “Well, now why is it? Why now? It didn’t always used to be this way. Certainly it’s not what sold stuff in the ’80s. Right? […] What is it now that people are demanding reality, demanding authenticity?”

And they’re arguing that all this virtual stuff that’s been creeping up on us over the last twenty years has really cut us off from nature. We’re cut off from nature, we’re cut off from self-sufficiency.

[…] We live in a bubble of fake bullshit and we have this hunger to get to anything that’s real. Even if the best we can do is a Starbucks mocha with real Swiss chocolate — we’ll take it! Oh, that’s real! Look how real that seems to me, relative to what I’m used to!

Jesse Schnell, Design Outside the Box Presentation

In that segment, Schnell frequently references Authenticity, by Gilmore and Pine, so you might also want to check that out.


This is something I often wonder about, as the Internet grows by leaps and bounds. For example, my recurring love-hate relationship with the Great Internet Timesuck and my tendency to quit Facebook and invoke Vonnegut just about every year. As I said before, I feel as if there’s some sort of cultural push back on the horizon — maybe this “thirst for reality” is already here, just in some other form?