03 June 2008

The age old question: Who am I?

I’ve been contemplating my online presence lately. The absolute first thing known about me online is my name. Before a reader can discover I’m a dog loving, people hating, sarcastic cynic, they see my name. Which gives them an immediate clue about me, might even cause them to greet me with some suspicion. That’s what it was intended to do. My online name has stood me well over the years. That’s who I’ve been online almost as long as I’ve been online. Lately, though, I’ve been embracing a new and different name. One with a completely different message. It’s a sad thing. I have a major attachment to my name, a sort of nostalgia about it. I’m not sure I’m ready to give it up.

Aside from my online name, who am I? What is my online presence, and how do people perceive me? More importantly, how easy or difficult is it for someone to put me together, despite my disparate presence. In some ways it is easy to track me down online. I just told you that I’ve used the same name for years. Practically everything I’ve posted online has been under this name. Go ahead, google me, see what comes up. Just by following my comments and postings you can get a pretty good idea of what my interests are. You can’t, however, find out many truly personal details about me. Which is as it should be, as far as I’m concerned. I work hard to keep it that way. As you can guess, I frequently contemplate all this. Because my online presence is so separate from my real life presence, those who know me online more than likely would never know how to find any information if I ever disappeared. I’ve seriously considered, and fully intend to, create a list of websites and appropriate posts for someone to take care of, should anything ever happen to me. By which I don’t mean I die in a car crash this afternoon; I simply mean if I ended up extremely sick, or injured, or yes, in the hospital, there are online communities who should be informed.

What I less often contemplate is what conclusions could be drawn about myself based solely on my online presence. This idea was brought to my attention by a blog I recently read that proposed a very interesting history writing assignment. http://beyond-school.org/2008/05/24/doing-history-with-web-legacies/ As someone who has studied history, and done research with primary documents, I have often lamented the fact that today we so rarely write letters or correspond in ways that can be easily saved for posterity. I have often thought that with our new online world, so much of who we are will be lost because it is ephemeral. I’ve never thought of it from the angle provided in that assignment. It’s quite fascinating.

So, now that you know my entire online history is available at the touch of a button (or click of a mouse), and I’ve gone ahead and told you to google me, perhaps you’d like to fulfill that assignment and help me figure out who I am.

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