Friday, August 28, 2009

Old friends and social networks and stuff

As most of you who read my blatherings already know, I almost exclusively use these blog posts to talk about my live music shows in Second Life, or to give you updates as I've worked on completing my album. But here's a rare post about an entirely different topic. Sort of.

You're probably aware that "Zak Claxton" wasn't the name I was born with. I pretty randomly chose that name when my ladyfriend "Kat Claxton" (also not her birth name, unsurprisingly) and I signed up for the 3-D virtual reality world of Second Life in 2006. As I started performing live music in SL, I started developing a small but loyal following of fans who knew me as Zak. At the same time, my real name is kind of long and German and not very appealing from a rock star perspective. Also (and this is perhaps the most important part of what I'm telling you today), I had initially intended on putting up a separation between my real-life self and my music self long before I ever entered Second Life. In other words, I wanted to be able to have my normal life, as a family guy and a business owner and all that responsible crap, and also be able to release music and not have it impact the other areas of my life. After all, I'd hardly be the first person to adopt a stage name. I know it's like having your cake and eating it too, but that was the basic idea. God forbid, if I became some kind of celebrity, I didn't want my kid dealing with "Your dad's a rock star" treatment at school. Having worked in the music industry for a long time, I knew that fame wasn't nearly as cool as it's cracked up to be.

So that was the plan. But plans, as they are wont to do, change.

As time went by, I built quite a bit of content around the Zak Claxton name. I put together a website at, and created social networking pages to connect with fans and so on. However, there were a few problems that arose as a result. First, as I started getting close to my album being released, I gradually became aware that my popularity in SL wasn't nearly enough to allow my music to have the broader impact I felt it deserved. Second, my real life is directly connected to the music and entertainment businesses, and it seemed a pity that I was throwing away 20 years worth of contacts in order to retain anonymity. But most of all, I was missing out on one thing that I actually do find fun about things like Facebook: connecting with people in my real life who I really cared about. None of them outside of my SL friends knew me as "Zak", so they weren't going to find me there, and I wasn't about to create separate pages for "Zak" and for "Jeff"; I'm far too lazy to maintain a multitude of these things beyond what I already do.

I think the trigger for my recent outreach to old friends started when, just a few days ago, my old bandmate and high school buddy Michael Gale finally got on Facebook. As he uploaded these dozens of old photos in his collection, I started seeing names of people making comments on those pics... names that I hadn't heard in years. I realized that many of those people were significant to me back then, and that I was missing out by not giving them an opportunity to be in touch with me. I had the same feelings regarding some of the people I've worked with over the years; these people were good friends with whom I'd shared a lot of experiences.

The upshot of all this is that I've begun reaching out to folks, sending friend requests and letting them know that this "Zak Claxton" person is actually their old pal Jeff. The reality is that I never made any attempt to differentiate between Zak and Jeff, other than the names. There's no big stage persona, no acting in ways that aren't natural toward my usual self, so I certainly wasn't worried about blowing some big secret or anything. And now, I find I'm very happy to hear what's going on in the lives of people who in some cases, I hadn't been in touch with for more than 20 years. I'm also glad to fill them in on my own life's details, and to give them a chance to check out the music I've been doing. Most musicians who are friends do like to hear what their pals have been up to from a musical perspective. I know I do, anyway.

So, that's it. If you happen to be reading this and was wondering why Jeff had some different name on Facebook and so on, it's not because I'm in a witness protection program, or that I hate my family, or anything like that. I'm still just Jeff, and I happen to call myself Zak when I have a guitar around my neck and a microphone in front of me, which is (thankfully) pretty often these days.

And now you know.

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