Peggy Orenstein writes about Twitter for this Sunday’s NYT Magazine, focusing on the identity we create or try to express through Twitter:

Each Twitter post seemed a tacit referendum on who I am, or at least who I believe myself to be.

(…)

The expansion of our digital universe — Second Life, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter — has shifted not only how we spend our time but also how we construct identity.

She quotes MIT professor Sherry Turkle:

“On Twitter or Facebook you’re trying to express something real about who you are,” she explained. “But because you’re also creating something for others’ consumption, you find yourself imagining and playing to your audience more and more. So those moments in which you’re supposed to be showing your true self become a performance. Your psychology becomes a performance.”

When I read this I immediately thought of myself, and I admit to “playing to my audience,” at least most of the time. I don’t see anything wrong with that; it shows a sensitivity to who you are “talking” to, just like in real life.

However, I also thought of the people I have on Twitter and Facebook that can’t seem to understand that the whole world reads what they are writing, and that sometimes they are showing a side of themselves that is not very likable. Take the World Cup for example: I had Facebook and Twitter friends writing degrading, personal attacks towards countries they didn’t want to see win a game. I always wondered if they would say that to the face of someone from that country.

I think people are getting better at thinking before they post, because they are realizing that what they write online reflects who they are and leaves an impression on their followers/friends.

But Orenstein makes a good point -something we should all think about- in the form of a question:

How much, I began to wonder, was I shaping my Twitter feed, and how much was Twitter shaping me?