Dissociative (Twitter) Identity Disorder

I tried something new a few months ago, and I’m not sure I like it.

You see, I used to tweet a lot about sports. Still do, kinda. I tweet about lots of things related to my interests, but for some reason, tweeting about sports always felt different to me. I felt like:

  • it was turning off people who follow me mostly because of my identification with professional pursuits around education and/or technology. I just felt like VERY few of the people who follow me and/or with whom I engage somewhat regularly have any interest in sports.
  • it was stopping people who might otherwise follow me from following me because it meant a volume of tweets that may be offputting. Mind you, I have issues here that are personal. For example, I don’t want to be viewed as a blabbermouth and/or a know-it-all. I think this is somewhat cultural in that ever since I moved from New York to Virginia, I feel like I’ve been coded as a blabbermouth and/or a know-it-all. I don’t like that feeling, so I don’t want that feeling carrying over onto Twitter.
  • it was somehow “less than;” that is, relatively speaking, sports is neither particularly important nor high-minded. Thus, for some reason, I felt a little embarrassed to tweet about sports. To be a sports fan is to be a heathen relative to other pursuits such as the arts or literature or even politics. This is likely personal, too, but, I’m just sharing why I made this move.

So, I created a separate Twitter account, @profballer. Before I offer my observations of having done this, let me say a bit about the logistics of the move.

  1. First, I created the account and followed a bunch of sports writers and clearly sports-related accounts1. Each time I followed someone new, I looked at Twitter’s recommended “similar accounts” and followed accounts I thought I’d be interested in. I also looked at some lists that sports writers had created and followed individuals on those lists. I currently follow 111 accounts.
  2. Second, I unfollowed overlapping sports-related accounts from my @jonbecker account. This uncluttered the stream of tweets I was seeing via @jonbecker rather considerably. This wasn’t a clean separation, though. People like Richard Deitsch and Seth Davis work in the sports media, but they tend to tweet about other things, including journalism and politics. Same with Jeff Pearlman. There are probably a handful of such accounts that I follow with both accounts. I can’t seem to fully dissociate…
  3. Third, I added @profballer as an account to TweetDeck such that my first 4 columns (left to right) are as below. This makes it pretty easy to follow the streams and mentions of both accounts. On mobile, I use the Twitter app and it’s pretty easy to toggle back and forth between accounts.
  4. Fourth, I stopped tweeting about sports via @jonbecker. Maybe not entirely, but pretty close, at least initially.
  5. Finally, I started using @profballer and engaged from time-to-time with other accounts.

I should also add that when I created the @profballer Twitter account, I also bought profballer.com and thought I might try out sports blogging as a hobby. You’ll see that I didn’t get far with that. But, I haven’t given up on the idea entirely. I actually went to college thinking that I wanted to be a sportswriter. My first year at college, I wrote for the sports department of The Chronicle. It wasn’t a great experience. I was assigned women’s lacrosse and men’s and women’s soccer. I enjoyed those sports, but I hated tracking down the coaches after the game and asking them questions about the games. I was just a little too introverted and not assertive or confident enough. Maybe I needed to give it more time, but I stopped writing for The Chronicle after my first year in college. Then, later during college, I was locked out of a course taught by the great John Feinstein who was a visiting professor one semester. I took that as a sign that I wasn’t meant to be a sports writer. But, again, I’m not giving up all hope. I think I’d enjoy sports blogging, but I’d have to prioritize it in my life in ways I’m not yet comfortable with.

But, back to Twitter…

After three or four months, mostly, I feel dissociative. I feel like I’m not being true to myself at @jonbecker. And, I feel a little too anonymous and inauthentic at @profballer. But, I’m also cognizant of the possibility that what kept me from fully enjoying my time as a sports writer for The Chronicle may also be stopping me from enjoying using @profballer. That is, I’m a little shy and hesitant to engage with that account. Having been on Twitter for so long as @jonbecker, I had completely forgotten what it’s like to be a noob on Twitter. When you mention someone using an account with 20 followers, they are really unlikely to take you seriously. Most of my engagements using @profballer have been with people who follow me at @jonbecker and who also follow me at @profballer. So, it takes some courage to reply to or mention someone like Bomani Jones who has over 379K followers. Why would he bother to engage with me?

Additionally, I find it hard to engage with other completely random people. So, for example, during a VCU basketball game, I look at the #LetsGoVCU hashtag and see folks tweeting about the game. Often, those tweets come from an individual who presents as maybe 19 years old and who mostly otherwise tweets about getting drunk and hating college classes. It just feels weird to me to engage with that person. It’s probably completely elitist and snobby of me, but I just can’t get past the feeling of not wanting to engage with someone with whom I’d most certainly have nothing else in common.

So, I have had no luck trying to engage with people who are really smart and who think a lot about sports but who are likely bombarded with tweets and therefore unlikely to reply to me. And, I don’t feel fully comfortable tweeting with Joe or Jane sports fan who is probably half my age and who probably doesn’t want to have conversations about sports like I do. And, frankly, that’s kind of what I’m looking for; much like I have actual conversations about education and/or politics over at @jonbecker, I’m looking to have reasonably sophisticated conversations about sports on Twitter. And, that’s hard to find and to do.

When we see events like Serena and Venus Williams reaching the finals of the Australian Open like they did this week, that kind of event transcends sports. There are massive socio-cultural implications of that story and it’s not possible to put it in the box of just sports. And, it’s not possible for me to comment on that with *just* my sports hat on over at @profballer. Same thing with the upcoming Super Bowl. That sporting event has become a massive cultural event in this country. It’s not *just* sports.

I’m constantly reminded that David Weinberger taught us that these days, Everything is Miscellaneous. The subtitle of that book is “The Power of the New Digital Disorder.”

I’m going to keep the split for now, but you may also see me going back to tweeting a little bit about sports via @jonbecker. If I decide to trash the whole experiment, it’ll be because I’ve decided that in the digital age WE are miscellaneous; our identities are not meant to be dissociated. Time will tell…

  1. For example, I followed some official team accounts []

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