I have a few friends who try to avoid online interactions. They’re not on LinkedIn. They don’t like Facebook. They won’t shop online because they don’t want their credit card information “out there.” Some of them have email addresses, but whenever I send them something, I have to ask, “Did you get my email?” because checking email is not a regular routine for them.
In some cases, these people are simply not interested in being online. They’ve lived most of their lives offline, and they have no compelling reason to change. It doesn’t appeal.
In other cases, these people have specifically chosen not to be online. I think because they are afraid—of identity theft, I suppose. They seem to believe that theft is far more rampant online than in real life (I haven’t researched whether that belief is reasonable or not), so they avoid websites that might ask for their name, address, phone number, email address, credit card information, or shopping preferences.
My online philosophy
I suppose it’s better to be overly cautious than oblivious, but I take a different approach. My online philosophy is: Rather than trying to hide my identity, I want to shape it.
So I am very active online. In addition to publishing on this blog every week, I also publish on Smashwords, Amazon, Lulu, and Scribd. I comment on Facebook. I Tweet. I ask questions on LinkedIn. I occasionally write reviews of products I’ve used. And I always use my own, real name.
This is all very intentional. I figure that the more active I am, the more recognizable I am. And that’s important—not because I’m trying to become famous, but because if someone were to hijack my identity and start publishing things in my name, I want my readers to say, “Now that doesn’t sound like Melanie. I wonder what’s going on?”
My Digital ID
So when I came across an Online ID Calculator developed by Reach Communications Consulting, I went through the steps to find my Digital ID. I was pleased with the results. I am what Reach calls “digitally distinct.”
Now, the home page of their calculator says, “Today, if you don’t show up in Google, you don’t exist.” I don’t agree with that, but I do agree with the next two sentences:
Whether you are applying for a new job, being considered for a board position or trying to get a date, you can count on being Googled. So knowing what Google says about you and proactively managing your personal brand online is critical to success.
I do want to be found online. And I want the online me to be consistent with the real-life me. So I will continue to be proactive about managing my personal online brand and developing my Digital ID.
Your Digital ID
Even if you don’t want to be active online, you still might find the Online ID Calculator interesting—you could use it to find out if anyone is hijacking your identity! And if you’re working hard to establish a brand for yourself or your business, the calculator will give you a good sense of where you currently stand. And once you know where you stand, you can make informed decisions about next steps. So click the “Digitally Distinct” badge on this page and follow the instructions. I recommend calculating your ID using your personal name and then the name of your business.
And then come back and leave a comment about your experience. Were you surprised by the results? Are you going to do anything with them?