Nov 302013

I have a lot of Gmail accounts. I’m not, honestly, sure how many. In general, I have two personae on Gmail – N and N’, the “real me,” the dude whose name is on my birth certificates. But N has a few e-mail accounts for different purposes, and so does N’. And before I ended my CPOS days, I had several more (they’ve all been deactivated and deleted).

I’m curious about the phenomenon of compartmentalization, of noms de….  I tried, the other day, to learn something about this phenomenon, but could learn nothing. Not via Google, not via Google Scholar, not via searches through academic databases. This surprised me. Why are no sociologists studying the relatively new phenomenon of people’s having multiple identities, identities that are richly established, and fully lived?

Here are some questions whose answers I couldn’t find, but about which I’m curious:

1) How many people use Gmail? (Gmail said, in 2012, that they had “425 million active users,” but I suspect that I might be ten or more of them.)

2) How many Gmail accounts does the average active Gmail user have/use?

3) What would a metadata analysis of people’s various Gmail accounts show? How frequent is the phenomenon of N and N’ – essentially wholly distinct personae, with little to no overlap in their social networks, but both lived by the same person?

4) An interesting (to me) question: we know that surveys typically estimate that approximately 50% of marriages feature “infidelity” at some point. What proportion of American marriages feature spouses living online existences unknown to their partners? How common is this secret sort of compartmentalization, betrayal?

I’m interested in these questions, not least, because I’m interested in how people live their lives (rather than in how they say they live them, or how they wish they lived them). I believe, almost as a matter of faith (but possibly in a somewhat defensive/projective way) that this sort of secrecy is in fact huge, that many many many of us have secrets in our phones, our laptops, our desktops, our tablets.

I would love to read more about this.

If anyone can point me in the direction of interesting research or writing that’s been done on the subject, I’d appreciate it.

Say something! (I just did....)