“Who are you?”

26 Sep

Image taken from http://itthing.com

That is a question that carries a lot of weight, digitally speaking.  A lot of us Gen Yers remember our parents telling us to never, ever, give out our personal information over the Internet, and personal information meant any information at all.  We were groomed in a culture of fear, where we internalized the message of danger equating with online transparency in identity.

This is bad.  Our parents and guardians had their reasons for warning us away from divulging our identities: fear of predators, pedophiles and thieves, and fear of what we might say or do that would stay with us forever.  Honestly, they were pretty smart about that last one – I can’t think of many 12 year olds (actually, I think of none at all) who I trust to keep their reputations clean…and all bets are off once they hit high school.

But for us, as professionals and adults?  Being so nervy, jealously guarding our information down to the last byte, doesn’t help us.  I think it hurts us when we’re so opaque to the Web and its denizens.  Did you know there are services and articles online about becoming “digitally dead”?  Just in case you want to make sure all your information dies with you.  Or before you do.  I did some poking around, and aside from widgets and tools, I’m sure there’s a service that does all those steps in the second link rolled into one price.

We need to be ourselves online, use a consistent name (if not our real, legal name), and allow some information to leak out.  I work in a career college library.  I live in North Carolina.  I’m married.  Things like that could, potentially harm me, but the possibility of reaching people on a more authentic level is worth the risk.  When you’re using the Internet professionally, it behooves you to have it all credited back to you.  To me, that means a LinkedIn profile, professional Facebook, Twitter, etc., all linked together so that your audience can hear you how they prefer.

The only drawback is that you have to think about the content you generate, considering that you wouldn’t want someone knowing your personal life if all they’re interested in is your expertise in libraries.  That’s no different from dressing appropriately, to my mind; you’re representing an aspect of yourself, but it’s still you.  That’s the most important thing.

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