I first put my toe in the shallow end of the Internet pool way back on October 21, 1994. That's when I set up an account on AOL and began exploring the Internet. And I remember that moment of panic when the prompt came up to create a Screen Name. A what?? I didn't know I would need a screen name. But the HELP section explained it to me. And it gave some precautions. So I felt I should choose something that didn't tell people exactly who I was.
After that, for years, we were all told to be somewhat anonymous online. Women shouldn't use a screen name that indicated they were female cause they would just be targeted for sex. Kids shouldn't reveal they were young or they would be targeted for sex. Somehow, middle aged white guys weren't being targeted for sex. Some of us were just a tad insulted. But we moved on...being anonymous online. Hiding behind screen names. I had a screen name for AOL...and so did my wife. I had a screen name for CompuServe (remember that one!?!). Of course, it was a different screen name than the AOL screen name cause the same one wasn't available on both services. But heck, being a whole bunch of anonymous people had advantages. Every time I wanted to hang out in certain user created chat rooms...well, we don't need to explore that part of my online history.
Point being, for years we were all a big secret.
And then things began to change. Integrity came with transparency. Being the real me made it possible to blog and do other things online as a professional. And as those professional uses of social media began to overlap with personal uses, there was more confusion between various aliases in some places with real names (or in my case, still clinging to the idea that some secrecy was the way to go), an initial and a name.
Then came facebook. Everyone suddenly felt the need to use their real names. Otherwise, how could those old college friends find you? Besides, facebook feels like a safe place...just people sharing photos of their kids, talking about the routine pieces of their lives, and touching base with old and new friends.
Now...what's a boy to do? My professional blog and professional twitter account identify me the same way. My name. My facebook account has my real name. But here...in blogger...the place I've actually connected and talked with many people...I'm still a nickname. Sure, many of the folks who have talked with me via e-mail over the years know my real name now. But there is an odd disconnect between here and everywhere else. All my family and friends know me on facebook. Only two people that I actually know in real life know about my blog. But I don't write anything here that would offend them or upset them. And even if I did, I write what I really think. It isn't a big secret.
So at what point does pseudo-privacy and anonymity fade away and we all become clickable as the person that we really are?
What do YOU think? How do YOU handle it? Are YOU...really you?