Digital Identity Crisis

Since my introduction to the Internet (Geocities anyone?), I’ve kept a healthy respect for the necessity of a hard line between real life and digital.  Frankly, in a world of Google, Facebook, and Twitter it’s probably fair to say that most people don’t have much privacy left.  Knowing that everything that goes onto the Internet will eventually leak out to the World Wide Web helps keep a sobering perspective on what exactly is posted.  I’m fighting hard to keep my kids anonymous until they are old enough to decide for themselves (for all the good that will do — :D).  To date, I’ve fought hard to keep my life as anonymous as possible from the perspective of Google.

And yet…I recognize that the world is changing.  Privacy is quickly diminishing, if it even truly exists anymore. The social aspects of life are moving online in ways that ten years ago would have simply been unbelievable.  The world is truly morphing, and with it I feel myself beginning to relent.  And this leads me to my digital identity crisis.

Since 1995 when I stumbled into my first AOL chat room and was able to reach out to the world from my living room (well, my aunt’s office technically), I’ve hidden my online personas behind a morass of digital identities.  People who knew me could usually sort it out, but to the world at large I (hopefully) remained unsearchable.

And now Facebook is tearing those walls down.  I’m not a huge fan of Facebook and rarely use it beyond the occasional game of Wordscraper, but I’m beginning to see the value in putting the real me out as a real person, not just another online persona.  I often wonder if the people who actually know me just laugh and scoff over the inane usernames I pick that bear no relationship to who I actually am.  Do they understand the need for privacy?  Do I?  Everytime I see a tagged photo leaving someone in a not so happy looking situation, I wonder who will end up seeing that photo? Who will see it that that person doesn’t want to have seen it?

And maybe I worry over nothing.  After all, how interesting am I (or any of us save a few) as a person that I would ever need to worry about someone even bothering to find me on the Internet, let alone worry about someone connecting me to an old hacker name I no longer use.  As an individual, I’m really not that interesting.  The paranoia in me screams out in terror every time I think about it.

As an example, I once took a friend’s Twitter id (just her id from one post!) and used Google to pull tons of information about her.  I scared her into blocking her posts for a bit (sorry!).  But this is what people need to be hyper-aware of.

In fact, there was a website up for a while (pleaserobme.com) which watched Twitter / Facebook / {insert social network of choice} and reported when users reported they were not home.  They’ve stopped, they got their point across. It’s indeed scary.

Thus, my identity crisis.  It’s one I think I’m going to fight for a long time to come.  Maybe this blog will be a lessening of the boundaries I’ve set up, but within reason.

Word to my invisible audience of 6ish — be careful what you post anywhere online.  It’s permanent, and not nearly as private as you assume it is.


5 Comments

  1. ME

    I have so missed your writing! Thank you…YOU will be the one to guide me back …

    Reply
    • chad

      Wow, but no pressure right?

      Reply
  2. teri

    You opened my eyes and made me more aware than anything. I think it was definitely a good thing, so thanks! It is very important to be mindful of what is on-line about you.

    Reply
  3. James Hillier

    Chad – Insightful and delivered with your trademark humour.

    My lovely better three quarters was recently coerced into opening a Facebook account, just so she could participate in online games with some of her female buddies.
    I helped her set it all up and the very next morning there were 8 emails from people wanting to be her ‘friend’…..3 from people she did know and 5 from others we had never heard of.
    It turned out she didn’t enjoy the games anyway and had no use for the social interaction role of Facebook…so we immediately closed the account.

    The whole episode got me to thinking. I saw such inane comments on there (Facebook), the response most elicited in me was…who cares!!
    So I began pondering the implications. Have people gotten so lonely they actually need to broadcast their thoughts and details of their mundane lives in cyberspace? Don’t they have anyone in their lives to share this with? Is there something in the way society is developing which is inhibiting normal (verbal) communication?

    No answers mate….just questions.

    Cheers…Jim

    Reply
    • chad

      Heh. Well Jim, it’s funny that you ask about broadcasting mundane lives into cyberspace, and yet this blog serves to do just that. LoL.

      Facebook has been great in helping me connect with old friends, but I don’t use it as a primary means of communication.

      And of course. Questions. Lots of questions.

      Reply


Your Comment to chad