Book Club: "The Shallows" by Nicholas Carr.

The Internet and our digital entertainment environment are changing the way we communicate, read, and think of each other and the world. Nicholas Carr’s new book, “The Shallows,” explores the un-deepening of our reading and thinking patterns. Too often we classify these kinds of debates as on or off issues; either we’re entering a new, dark era of shallow reading that any self-respecting neanderthal would’ve scoffed at, or we’re becoming jack-of-all-trade geniuses, able to parse information and string together complex arguments in a matter of seconds.

The issue on my mind tonight, as I self-consciously type and re-type this post, is the unnecessary cautiousness the Internet has instilled on me. I’m not “my self” on the Internet, as I juggle between the opposing ideals of wanting to appear professional – mindful of the likelihood of future Google queries that will be conducted by a potential employer – and authentic, writing about whatever I want to write about.

I think it all stems from the ridiculous concept of the “personal brand.” The notion that you need to have a consistent set of motives and beliefs, and to present yourself according to those principles at all times. Even if your online behavior seems innocuous to you now, you never know what the biases of a future employer may be.

Like that’s all that matters.

Sure, I could write anonymously, but nobody trusts unidentified sources. Anonymity lends itself to harsh bravado; I just want to be genuinely critical.

I think what it comes down to is that there’s way too much information out there about most of us, especially if you’re active in an online community. And if the Internet is the dominant mode of communication, are the majority of us keeping silent for fear of future retaliation of some sort?

Then my alter-ego offers: “Well if you’re talking about something that could get you in trouble later, maybe you shouldn’t be writing about about it in the first place.” But then I’m already censoring myself, I tell alter-me, always thinking about where to draw the line – a mindset that completely kills free expression. Perhaps I’m being just a tad insecure, but doesn’t the fear of being watched in the future have the same chilling effect as if you’re definitely being watched right now?