Control your identity

What Marco wrote is very right. We have to own our online identity. His article made me think about controlling it. I’m focusing more on the general idea, less on certain services and dependency on them, like Marco did.1

First of all: Controlling your identity is important. Knowing what’s out there an what’s not. Most normal, non-geeky people try not to have anything out there at all. That works, but just if and until you really don’t have. With Facebook and all, just forget it.2 Or, put differently: If you aren’t online that much, you can be fine. But eventually, a small piece of information from the ‘real world’ will make it into the Internet, and then that’s on the first page when someone googles your name. Something in the local newspaper, sports club, some voluntary work, whatsoever. By now, you should’ve realized that there’s no such thing as ‘virtual life’. Or there is, but it’s the exact same as ‘real life’, just digitalized. There’s no divide. Treating it like that is… well, it would be cute if it wasn’t overwhelmingly dumb. I’ll go with dumb.

So, I think you should be the one claiming your identity. If there is information about you on your employer’s website, let’s say your name, like in ‘’, it is out there. Then, it’s not a stretch to talk about your employment openly. I mean, you don’t have to, but you certainly don’t have to act as if it was a secret. That would be dumb, too.

That’s why I built my personal page3 and try to push as high in Google’s ranking as possible, so that I control which accounts are recognized as mine. I don’t want allow anyone to get the feeling he ‘dug out’ something I tweeted by using one of the weird third-party auto-tweet-accumulation-sites. I want no one to get the impression that I wouldn’t be aware of what’s what.
Here I am, this is me, and this is my Twitter account. And I want you to know that. This way, even the information I don’t really want out there doesn’t stand out that much, because there is all the stuff I put out there on purpose.

This isn’t meant to be part of the debate about Google’s real name policy. I didn’t chose to, but if someone has built an online identity with an alias or wants to do so, that’s fine and a whole different thing.

  1. It also made me think about how I handle my email. Although I use many addresses on different domains that I own or control additionally to my gmail address, I rely heavily on gmail to handle them. If gmail broke away, I wouldn’t lose the addresses of course, but effectively just check half of them. Not that bad, but not quite optimal.
  2. On Facebook, you can be ‘Aladdin’, ‘Jack Sparrow’ or ‘Hannibal Lecter’, that doesn’t change anything. You’re you, and your 700 Facebook ‘friends’ know that behind that fake name it’s you, having that FarmVille request. If not, maybe the incredibly cheap-looking shot of you posing in front of your dirtky bathroom mirror your girlfriend finds so cute, taken with the incredibly ugly first 5 MP-flash Sony candy bar mobile phone gives them an idea. It’s so annoying. Thank you.
  3. And because it was fun.