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I can’t emphasize the value of creating your online identity. I totally respect those who want to keep things private, but there is a way to balance privacy and making sure you are your identity is kosher. Especially in this digital age, it is important to develop your identity, then control what is being shared. Luckily, we have so many resources to make this possible.
On the other hand, there are way too many sites to manage. LinkedIn. Facebook. Twitter. MySpace… you name it. I can’t even keep track anymore. But I do know that if I don’t take ownership of my identity, chances are someone else will do it for me, whether they do it deliberately or not. How many times have you found pictures of yourself on social networking sites that others posted? Or how about information about you that is shared because you were “just part of the story”? Whether you like it or not, social networks are successful because of their transparency, and there’s no changing the truth behind that reality. The irony of not being (somewhat) transparent about yourself is that you actually end up losing control of your privacy.
Times are changing. Our existence is no longer solely based on our human interactions, but also in our online ones too. The amount of social networking sites have only grown over the years, and it is becoming harder to manage online identity. Some of my friends are fearful of identify theft or not wanting people to know what they are up to, and tend to set their privacy features to the maximum. Others prefer to keep their lives private, opting out of all social networkings sites altogether.
The million dollar question is: Can opting out of social networking sites become detrimental to your online identity?
In my opinion, the answer is yes. I’m not trying to advocate that everyone should start a personal PR campaign on the Internet, but rather create a presence and regulate the perception that is already being shared. If others are already influencing your identity through their lives and interactions with you, why not take self authority to validate it?
Here are my thoughts on the most commonly used social networking sites.
As a professional networking site, this should be the most transparent of everyone’s online identity. I don’t see the value of keeping anything private on LinkedIn, because the platform is meant to help market yourself. You want people to find your LinkedIn profile on search results and you want to allow people to network with you. From a professional perspective, the more to share your experience and the more you connect can only help build your credibility. You never know if you will lose your job tomorrow, so best that you prepare yourself (and your resume) by networking real-time.
Facebook + Myspace
I think these social networking sites can swing two ways. It can be used to share yourself with the world, and it can be used to keep in touch with people you know. Personally, I go with the latter. I joined Myspace in 2003 (post Friendster, haha), then Facebook in 2004, to update family and friends with my life events. Eventually, I got sick of managing both sites and ended up cancelling Myspace. Over time, most friends transferred to Facebook anyway. Pre-social networking sites, I used to write letters or mass emails to keep my friends updated with my life. Now, I am doing the same thing without doing it manually.
You can still use social networking sites and maintain your privacy using filters, settings, and managing the people you are connected with (whether this number is 5 or 500).
I won’t spend too much here since I have two other posts dedicated to the use and value of Twitter (To Twitter, or Not to Twitter: Part One and Part Deux). But I do want to say that if you tend to keep things private, Twitter may not be for you. I also think that content on Twitter is meant to be shared publicly, because it is a combination of updating your status and microblogging about information you want to share with the world.
If you have your Twitter status private and/or connect your Tweets to your Facebook, what additional value does this provide? You’re probably sharing your updates with the same audience, so you’re only duplicating your efforts. On the other hand, if you want to share information with the world and your personal friends (like, check out this cool website), it might make sense to link your status between Facebook and Twitter.
All in all, don’t complain about your online privacy. Do something about it.