Who the hell am I?

When attending #chru yesterday, upon arrival I was asked to complete my identification badge – first name and Twitter handle. No company name, no job title. Excellent start.

As the morning progressed through a lively world café session, and I spoke to many people I had met on Twitter but never face to face, there were hardly any questions related to where I worked or what I did. The only related questions stemmed from me trying to establish who wad “in HR” and who was not… mainly so that if I found people who were not “in HR” I wouldn’t feel isolated. I gave up after a while, a little embarrassed.

Then someone asked me if I was @theatreacle “the poet” and it completely made my day. I confess I almost blubbed there and then. I was recognised first and foremost for something I did on my own account, and not within my employment. Probably for the first time ever.  

This made me think hard about who I am, and who we are.

We are so often asked – name, job title, employer. For decades this helped define us. When we mentioned our job title it allowed the questioner to fill in all the blanks they needed from a library of prejudice and assumption. They immediately felt they knew something about us. We then often spent some considerable time challenging and dismantling their interpretation, and dispelling the negative energy created.

Yet as we now create our personal identity through social media and associated face-to-face interaction, we have the opportunity to define ourselves in a myriad of ways. As what we get paid for doing and what we don’t get paid for doing merge within this identity – like writing lyrics for a song performed at an unconference, an event from which I took ideas and inspiration for my employed and personal life – we find it hard to say exactly who we are, because we are so many things at once, and opting for one or two only goes part way to telling the whole story. This is why Tweetups like #tuttle and unconferences like #chru are such inspiring and non-judgmental environments. By not giving a job title we avoid the creation of immediate prejudice. We learn about one another as we go, on line and face-to-face., incrementally and over time.

Social media has enabled this fundamental change.

When I next apply for a mortgage however, stating “poet” as my occupation may still create enough prejudice to ensure I don’t get very far. Some areas of our life still have a way to go.

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