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 I’ve gone into the archives and published “Signal to Noise,” a previously unpublished entry from August of last year.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.