Discovering (and Managing) Your Online Identity

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What is an “Online Identity”?

An “Online Identity” according to Wikipedia can be defined as “Internet identity (also called IID), or internet persona is a social identity that an Internet user establishes in online communities and websites. It can also be considered as an actively constructed presentation of oneself. Although some people prefer to use their real names online, some Internet users prefer to be anonymous, identifying themselves by means of pseudonyms, which reveal varying amounts of personally identifiable information.”

Full Name Google Search Results

I “Googled” my full name to see what information was readily available about me online and found only a link to my LinkedIn profile (first result) as well as a few comments that I posted recently on public Facebook pages for a few local small businesses as well as a few blog comments for entry into contests. There are only a couple of photos of me in the Images section (LinkedIn profile picture) and nothing came up in any of the other Google categories (Videos, News or Maps). I was most surprised to see that there were not more photos in the Images results or more contest entry blog comments showing up as I have a lot of photos stored online (Facebook) and enter a lot of online contests.

Managing Online Presence

I am working to maintain a professional online presence, so I am definitely going to ensure that I review each of my social profiles and the privacy and security settings to make sure that I am only sharing what I want to share with whom I want to share it. The Facebook “View Profile As” feature is a wonderful tool to check on what the general public or specific friends can see on your profile. I don’t get involved in any heated or controversial discussions online, so maintaining a professional online presence is not very difficult to do. Ensuring that any old photos that show nights out at the bar are removed and reviewing older content from the early days of Facebook to ensure that there is nothing controversial or negative that I wouldn’t want my family, friends, boss or colleagues to see. It all comes down to the question of “Would you be embarrassed or get into trouble if your family/friends/boss/co-workers saw that post?” If the answer is Yes, then it probably shouldn’t be posted online. “You want to retain some control over how others perceive you.” –Chris Pollock

Online Reputation Management

Some people are very guarded and post very little online, while others post their every moment for everyone to see. I came across a great resource meant for teenagers, but the tips for online identity and reputation management would work for anyone. “Remember that nothing is temporary online.Mark your profiles as private. Safeguard your passwords and change them frequently. Don’t post inappropriate or sexually provocative pictures or comments. Don’t respond to inappropriate requests”. For those of us who didn’t grow up fully immersed in the Internet from an early age, this can be a gentle reminder that once something is online it may come back to haunt you at a later time as nothing is temporary online. From The Online Identity Crisis “It is not about being anonymous or even pretending to be someone else. It is about controlling which subsets of true facets of a person are relevant in different social contexts. This is fundamentally not deceptive but actually enables one to be authentic.” It is best to err on the side of caution and to curate your online persona to ensure that you are showing your best positive self to the world.

References

Dowshen MD, Steven. (September 2013). Protecting Your Online Identity and Reputation. Retrieved from http://kidshealth.org/teen/safety/safebasics/online_id.html

Krotoski, Aleks. (April 19, 2012). Online identity: is authenticity or anonymity more important?.Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/apr/19/online-identity-authenticity-anonymity

Pollock, Chris. (April 10, 2015). Privacy is Dead! Find a Better Encryption Solution, Protect Sensitive Information. Retrieved from https://www.echoworx.com/protect-sensitive-information/privacy-dead/

Vronay, Dave. (2014). The Online Identity Crisis. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/insights/2014/11/the-online-identity-crisis/

Wikipedia. (November 24, 2015). Online Identity. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Online_identity

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