The years following the Renaissance, which was all arty and fluffy (except for stuff like the Spanish Inquisition) came to be known as The Enlightenment or the Age of Reason. Just as the Renaissance boasted great figures like Michelangelo and the other Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Age of Reason had its own cast of stars, including John Locke, Sir Isaac Newton, Spinoza, and Voltaire. Spanning through most of the 17th century and believed to be the spark that lit the fires of the American Revolution and the French Revolution, the Age of Reason was about science, math, and philosophy. One of its great stars was Rene Descartes.

Descarte was, if you pardon the pun, a real Renaissance man. He was a mathematician (you math nerds are probably thinking of your Cartesian Coordinate System), a writer, and a great philosopher. Perhaps his most well-known contribution was his pondering on the idea, “I think, therefore I am.”

These days, I fear that some folks have altered this line of reasoning a bit. I fear that for some people, their online identity has become their only identity. They are online, therefore they are. What are they when they are offline? Perhaps that scares them.

On Being Seen

I first ran into this idea on Chris Brogan’s site. He wrote:

I continue to maintain the fantasy that if I don’t blog every day, if I don’t tweet several times a day, if I don’t publish something interesting to Google+ a few times a day, then people will forget me and move on to other sources of information. In some ways, I know this to be true. We are a consumption society, hungry to click to the next thing and the thing after that. from You’re Not As Busy As You Think

I wondered, when reading that, how many people that statement resonated with. I suspect quite a few. Once you’ve gone to the trouble of building an online reputation, it’s almost horrifying to think that people could forget about you if you take a day off or a week off or *gasp* a month off. How did you live before you started tweeting or blogging or Facebooking? How did you track your value and your accomplishments? The possibility that you could lose everything you built over a year or two span because of one or two days off is enough to motivate people to keep on working online, even if their hearts aren’t in it anymore.

Has this happened to you?

Does Social Media lower our self-esteem?

If you begin to think that people will forget you after a day of not blogging or a day of not tweeting, what are you really saying?

To me, it seems like you are saying, “I’m not memorable. I don’t make enough of an impression on people. My presence is so fleeting that people will forget me unless I keep myself in front of them at all possible hours of the day.” This is sort of like what toddlers go through once they reach the age of about 1. Suddenly they start to get really upset when their mom or dad leaves the house. Are they coming back? Are they going to forget I exist? And where’s my bottle, anyway?

As adults, we are seemingly starting to go down this same path of reaction. To me, this would indicate that we are placing more and more value on what other people think of us and less and less value on what we think of ourselves. Granted, not everyone in the online world is going to remember you based on one tweet or one blog post, but you need to value yourself enough to trust that to the people who matter, your presence is appreciated and is missed when it is absent.

You continue to exist in peoples’ minds and hearts whether or not you are tweeting at them. Do you believe that about yourself? If you are feeling skeptical, I might toss out that what’s missing is not your ability to wow others. What’s missing is your ability to wow yourself.

What do you think? Are we basing our sense of self too much on whether or not we are present online? I’d love to hear your thoughts!