Just spent the morning and lunchtime perusing my online identity and determining changes I have to make to remain consistent across the social media platforms I find to be useful. At least that is how I started out the morning. The consistency task is huge and I have helped folks accomplish that for quite some time now. But as my mother would have said, “The cobbler’s children have no shoes.” I have a different kind of presence than most of my clients. I have been online forever. My first email account was in 1994. Friends for the most part as I was just a nerdy little undergrad, used and misused ARPA Net to play very, very early graphic based games. ZORK was the first “mainstream” game I played . These last two were in the late 1970s. I have a long online presence creating “blogs” and communities all the way back into the 1990s. I’m a writer. I create all sorts of content. I’m not sure I could recreate a tree or branch diagram of all the places I have places online content and had my stuff reposted, with or without my permission. So for a while I neglected my own consistency. But I am reclaiming as much of my online self as I can. It will be a long process. I think it will be an illuminating exercise. Of course if I did not think so I would not be doing it; and I sure wouldn’t be writing about it.
So here goes: Tips for Online Consistency
Determine your presence as it currently exists online. Do you post as an individual, a business, or an employee? Do you use your first name, full name, initials, a pseudonym, and what have you used in the past? What online accounts do you have? What is listed on the profiles for these accounts? Does any of the information conflict? Have info brokers or directories got the wrong info for you. Get it corrected. Is any of it out of date? Update or delete it. But please do remember that you never erase information on the web, you are only providing a current corrected version. Do your identities clash as though multiple personalities are fighting for control of your identity, or do you seem like a person with many interests who enjoys a rich full life? If you carefully craft your online identity you will appear to be the later. Nothing ever goes away in cyberspace, so frame or reframe as necessary. It your own tapestry you are weaving, highlight or blend in as appropriate.
Record or save what you find so you have a starting point for the next time you check your references. Both individuals and businesses need to check on their reputations from time to time. Schedule it. Do it. The recommended interval varies from person to person, but usually falls between once a week to once a month.
This is important. My business site should link to the real me enough that my cyber-neighbors and friends recognize my metaphorical house and can say, “Oh, so-and-so who owns or runs such-and-such lives there.” I do not have to invite anyone to enter my home, if I do not want to, but in a real community, we do have non-compartmentalized information about other members of the community. This provides a level of knowing, belonging, and trust that only comes from the overlap or repetition of information within a system.
I grew up outside of, about 4 miles outside of, small town America, in the 1960s. From the perspective of a kid, it really was all a bit Beaver Cleaverish. But their was community. Neighbors are a good thing. That is why I like Tucson. I live in a real neighborhood and I celebrate it! Cyber-neighborhoods come and go just as people move from one residence to another in real life. I think I have lived, and networked, in about 7 different neighborhoods in my online life. Some date all the way back to the Stone Age and punch cards.
I always bake cookies for neighbors on the winter holidays, I wave when I see them, I belong to the neighborhood association, and I have even helped elderly and infirm neighbors with routine life tasks (shopping, driving to appointments, and such.)
Our ever-increasing digitized communications and our ever more disconnected and geographically dispersed family groups means that community exists differently than it ever previously has in human history (or prehistory). We are social in nature. We need community connections that overlap between points of interaction and roles. Community has never been able to be self contained to one aspect of life; one area may have dominated but other areas touched even if we tried to isolate them.
So it all boils down to: know, claim, and if necessary, reframe.