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The Web Never Forgets: Monitoring Your Second Self

There is no doubt that the ubiquity of technology has engendered a change in how we interact with others. Many now feel comfortable sharing personal information through blogs, social networks and a variety of other online outlets. Whether as a requirement to succeed in modern vocations, to find information about a topic of interest or to discover new (or maintain old) relationships,  society is pressuring us to live increasingly public lives.

While some argue that this push towards transparency, whether it relates to individuals or governments/organizations, is a net positive, many might not be as comfortable with the change. Then, there are others that may desire to become more active online, but are afraid of unforeseen repercussions in the future. Regardless, researching and maintaining your online identity is becoming a requisite skill in modern society.

To get started, people need to stop and ask themselves some essential questions. What kind of data trail have you left behind? Embarrassing photos? Controversial comments in a heated forum debate? How will this information affect your employment opportunities or social life? Mark Shead of Productivity501 has some great tips for monitoring and shaping your online identity.

A good place to start would be to assume that anything you put online is public and indelible, so, before you post something, it is wise to ask yourself if you are comfortable with everyone having access to it. If not, either don’t post it, or post it under an alias.

Also, you need to consider the context within which your information will be viewed, i.e., while the specific post you are deliberating over may be harmless by itself, it could take on a whole new meaning within the context of all the other information that is available about you online.

Mark then recommends several steps for planning your online profile:

  • Create multiple profiles under your name
  • Get you own domain
  • Interlink your profiles
  • Post what you want people to see
  • Check to see what others are seeing
  • Get rid of bad content
  • Don’t forget about current employers

In order to make it a little easier to follow these suggestions, there are a couple of tools that can be utilized for documenting your online trail. In particular, they provide an organized snapshot across multiple online properties (e.g., blogs, social media accounts) that can be more informative at a quick glance than a simple Google search.

WebMii is a social search engine that aggregates hits from sources such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Bing to create a picture of your online identity. You begin your search by entering a first and last name, and by choosing which geographic region you would like your inquiry confined to (e.g., USA, France, International). Then, WebMii returns a comprehensive list of results ranging from images to social media profiles.

Another excellent people search engine is Pipl. Simply enter as much information as possible, including a first and last name, city, state and country, and (if information is available) Pipl will return an assortment of relevant content, e.g., personal homepages, press mentions, blog posts, Amazon wishlists and email addresses. Pipl even offers reverse lookups based on email, username or phone number. Continually, I am impressed with the comprehensiveness and accuracy of Pipl’s  results.

If you want to learn more about how technology is changing how we live our lives and communicate with other people, check out this excellent TED talk by Amber Case about our cyber selves.

Source Productivity501, TED

Image via AddyLaddy

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