A couple of years ago while we were on top of a hill in Wales my conversation with my friend turned to the subject of twitter. “You’d be the sort of person to have followers..man” or something like that he said before having a puff on his fag. I didnt think much of it at the time, I mumbled a reply and forgot about it. I didnt use my twitter account much and had few followers. Fast forward to the random creation of @Shitchester by Jennie Povey and me taking the reigns and leading it to the heights of success in the Chester social media scene. Now I have followers in the thousands but to attain it I’ve had to create an unknown alter ego.
Along the way I have made some good friends and got a lot of support from local business, bands, the media and even from within CwaC. Its all been very flattering to me, and from being an anonymous face in the crowd to getting requests for interviews, very surreal. Its great to know that people appreciate the message of community, goodwill and occasional laughter behind the account.
The awkwardness comes from the increasing encounters with followers, likely given the small city we live in, where I maintain the facade of anonymity wherever possible. I have walked past Cllr Jones numerous times in the city, my one time nemesis, and he was none the wiser, was he? Its weird because we have never said a word face to face, but now he’s seen the light and possible error of his ways he regularly interacts with me/the account. I regularly see followers in my work and general business, on the bus, even on my street. At the Botanist opening night I saw Gavin Mathews of Dee106 fame but he just walked past me oblivious. Many times I’m tempted to say “hello X” when I see people but is that right when they don’t really know me? Theres a constant fear of being a disappointment and not living up to the notorious image. In reality I’m not a cool guy and probably never will be. In the virtual world you can be whoever you want to be, you can create an image or lack of one and perhaps speak with a true voice. In this image driven age, not having an image seems like a bonus to me, but as noted it does have some confusing and soul searching side effects. If I had been tweeting from a personal capacity then it wouldnt have brought so many people together and theres no way we would have so many followers. The name has helped, initially seen as controversial, it was never intended to offend anyone.. it just happened. If we were called “LovelyChester” the fact is none of this wonderful adventure would have happened.
When I meet up with people via the account its often confusing. Am I talking with my own voice of that of SC? How do people expect me to behave, to act etc. Its not like meeting people normally when they wont have the expectation or ideas of who I am. Setting up the facebook account last Summer was another weird step- happened by accident as I should have set up a page instead of a personal account. Its so flattering to get so many friend requests and ending up with well over double the number of “friends” I have in the real world. People know what they are signing up for by friend requesting an anonymous account but I still feel guilty when I see people in the street, or people sitting in a coffee shop, the dentists waiting room, or in the magistrates waiting room. I know their names and they know nothing about me. Of course I’m a benevolent force and the facebook page allows for some more in depth discussions and photos to be shown. When people poke me , is that me they are poking or are they poking a concept? A few people know me on there but the majority of the 800+ facebook friends wouldnt notice me in the crowd.
It shouldnt be too hard to expose me if people wanted to do that I regularly tweet my location and check in on facebook and I’m fairly open if people ask me. “Are you ShitChester” someone asked me at the recent Smiths Indeed gig. By wearing “masks” and having a fake identity, we can all be things that we can’t be in the real world for whateve reason. Its an enjoyable fantasy, hopefully in this case a useful one. People talk to me who wouldn’t give me a second glance in the reality. I’ve earned more recognition building this community than anything I’ve done in my life outside the twitter, which is perhaps a bit sad. As Liam from The Suns once said to me “print the legend” , or tweet it. If people knew who I was it would certainly destroy a lot of mystery behind the account and compromise the freedom I currently enjoy. Closing positively, the point is that “we are ShitChester” not just me. The account is for anyone that wants to use it and I suppose I will be staying in the shadows for a while yet….
Thanks everyone for the continued support!
PS I give permission for any part of this blog to be reproduced in Private Eye’s “pseuds corner”
One Reply to ““Poking a concept ..?” Thoughts on identity and anonymity…”
After I initially left a comment I seem to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox
and from now on each time a comment is added I receive 4 emails with the same comment.
Is there a means you can remove me from that service? Appreciate it!