Resolving Online Identity Issues

For years I comfortably interacted with others on the Internet using nicknames, as most everyone did back then. I’ve been online since 1995: teaching myself to code html, taking online virtual classes, participating in discussion forums (Usenet, e.g., alt.parenting). I’ve built websites for myself and others; setup, hosted, and administered php forums; engaged in heated political discussions on gaming forums, and participated in “photoshop battles” with people across the world.

I miss those days.

Nowadays, you have to be very careful about what online activities you associate to your real name as you can count on it being logged in some database somewhere and/or becoming available via search.

I work in marketing communications and there’s a big emphasis on developing your personal brand so that when people search your name they can find content that demonstrates who you are and what you do; enhancing your “likability” factor for the benefit of establishing authenticity and credibility for whatever endeavor you want to promote. Let the online content you have carefully curated speak for itself so you don’t have to do all the explaining.

It’s like a bunch of people floating about on a large lake each in their own rowboat, waiting for the fish to jump in their boat. Whomever can shine the brightest will catch the most fish.

What I loved about the Internet when I started using it in 1995, and for many years thereafter, was the accessibility of information and the ability to learn and share with others. It’s become more challenging to interact this way online as much content is locked behind “identity gates” where you are required to provide your name and email address to access their content. You pay for information with your identity and most likely being added to a database; you are now a data point.

I came across this tweet when searching twitter to see what people are saying about “internet identity.” I’m a sucker for conspiracy theories, so it makes sense to me that the “brand yourself” movement is supported and promoted by companies and organizations that benefit from Big Data.Plant reflected in mirror

I bought into this for awhile, and sorta tried it, but I don’t need fish and it’s never felt right to me. I think it’s because I am sensitive to how people label and judge others using tidbits of personal information without ever really knowing the person they are neatly boxing up. I expected to become less sensitive with age. My younger self didn’t care as much as I do now. I think it’s because she hadn’t yet experienced being judged, labelled, boxed, and put on a shelf for others to make sense of the aspects of her life she loved.

  • “Race” – My husband and I look very different from one another. We have children. I know people, including family members, watch, observe, and make judgements about us and what we do based on their pre-conceived notions of and personal experiences with “race.” (“Race” in quotes because I believe the human race is the only race on this planet.) It’s worse when it comes from family members.
  • Lifestyle – I do not share with others that I play video games, although it’s been part of my life since I was a kid. It’s bizarre to me that people judge other people’s lifestyle choices, whether your hobby is playing video games, or if you love people of the same gender, or as a Mother who looks forward to going to work.
  • Health – I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in 2010, which greatly enhanced my awareness of others’ judging and labeling. I abhor being asked how my autoimmunity is doing. Sometimes I wish I never told anyone.

I suppose it’s human nature, a rudimentary nature at that and one I can’t escape at times, for us to make sense of our own worlds by labeling others based on our personal experiences and understanding. It’s so prevalent, that I’m certain every single person has been affected by people, including loved ones, applying a label in order to make sense of their own worlds… becoming insensitive for the sake of making sense. Ha!

I know I shouldn’t care, but I do.

In fact, the marketing communications part of me could benefit from sharing personal aspects of myself for the express purpose of making “deeper” connections in the work world. The truth of it though, I think I’m afraid to be further disappointed by people trying to make sense of their worlds.

For now, and maybe forever, I’ll be my authentic self online as Mama Druid. I’m really quite excited about this as it provides me with a sense of relief and I can be at peace when adventuring online with this identity.

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