For many years, the bio on my blog and all of my social networking sites said simply, “I’m just some guy.”
It was an “in-joke” just for myself: a reference to a time in my youth when someone at a party asked me, “Who are you?” And whether out of drunkenness or ditziness or general self-absorption, I answered by waving my hand distractedly and saying, “Oh, I’m just some guy…”
My close friends laughed; I’m not sure others were so amused.
Having some kind of tag-line or one-line biography has been a tradition in online communities since the early days of the internet. In the late 19080’s and early 1990’s, it was the fashion to include some kind of wise or humorous quote in your “signature file”, so that it would appear under your name any time you posted something on Usenet. Some sig file quotes from my teen years included:
I would attach these to my Usenet posts in groups like comp.ai.philosophy, alt.mens-rights or soc.motss, usually in heated philosophical and political debates on topics such as:
After college, I started up an AOL Homepage. I was doing some fashion and fitness modeling, while also working on my doctoral dissertation on neural network models of decision-making. My page was an eclectic mish-mash of modeling photos, fitness tips, shirtless selfies (which were a chore to take before digital cameras), political and philosophical essays, and newsy updates about my life.
I was essentially “blogging” before there was a word for it. But still, the task of constructing an “online bio” was beyond me.
No, that phrasing isn’t quite accurate: It’s not that I was incapable of writing a short biography for myself; it was that I was resistant to the idea of being put into a box with well-defined borders.
I enjoyed being able to shake up people’s assumptions. I was proud of being both a model and a doctoral student studying cognitive science and artificial intelligence. It was just as important to me that I was an atheist as that I was a gay activist. I was aggressively interested in liminal societies, counter-culture, and deconstructing mainstream views no matter where I found them. It was important to me to be all of these things.
Even back then, my online “following” was fragmented. I was always being told: You should focus on one message! Why are you writing about politics when people are coming to your website for workout tips? Why are you writing about the philosophy of language when people want to hear your views on LGBT politics? Why are you writing at all, when people just want to see your pictures? You should focus your brand, Greg, and your following will grow!
I had no interest in that.
Maybe it was due to my upbringing (my mother was a painter and my father was a research scientist), but I had a burning need to explore the world both from a technical and a creative perspective, and to constantly cross the boundaries between worlds.
Moreover, I wanted to help other people to see the world the way I see it! To me, the world was a complex, intersectional and interdisciplinary place, and getting other people to understand that vision required blending together every one of my interests. I wanted to write about science AND philosophy AND religion AND culture AND politics AND history AND fitness.
So at some point in my mid 20’s, I decided that that would be my personal brand. I would write about all of it, because my world view is an emergent product of the intersection of all of those things. My brand is interdisciplinary thinking. My brand is eclecticism.
Which is fine, except it’s not really good “short biography” material, is it? How do you describe yourself as a polymath without sounding like a self-aggrandizing prat? Celebrities who try to cultivate the “Renaissance Man” image get roundly mocked for it, and for good reason: being a well-rounded interdisciplinarian is not something you tell people about yourself, it’s something you need to show people.
So I was stuck: still no biography.
The calendar lazily rolled over to a new millennium, and I moved to Los Angeles. The decade that followed was an adventure that I have yet to write about in detail, although I’ve hinted at it from time to time. During that decade I taught classes at UCLA during the day while going to parties with well-known celebrities in the evening; and I also spent time living out of my car and driving friends to rehab. I went through an existential crisis, questioning everything I wanted to do with my life. It was a decade of being on top of the world and at rock bottom, almost at the same time. Perhaps one day I will write about it.
What about now?
I live in Dallas with my partner, Jon. We have been together since 2009. I have an office job that engages the analytical side of my brain: doing research, data mining and advanced mathematical modeling. As a creative outlet, I have been doing some script writing and new media production, and I’ve dabbled in writing short stories as well. I’ve tried my hand at drawing and painting, and hope to go back to it soon when I have time.
I’ve had science and political articles published in news outlets such as Second Nexus, The Daily Dot, Salon.com, Inside, The Week, The Good Men Project, and Real Clear Technology. But I have never had any interest in being a journalist. I still see myself, and have always seen myself, as an educator. Because what good is being a polymath and a Renaissance Man if you can’t use it to help other people understand the world better, and achieve more in their own lives?
If you ask me what I want to achieve–not only with my online writing and this blog, but with my Youtube channel and my work in independent media production and all of my creative projects online–my answer would be this. I was born with the incredibly fortune of having diverse interests, and I have lead a life of diverse experience. It gives me a perspective on the world that is brilliant and complex and deep and beautiful… and I want to help other people see that same beauty in the world around them, and in themselves.
But how do you summarize that for an online profile? How do you get that into your Twitter bio or Facebook tag-line? I still don’t have an answer to that.
On some level, I do the same stuff everyone else does: I write, and read, and work, and play, and travel, and exercise, and laugh, and cry.
I guess I’m “just some guy”, after all.