For many years, I have tried to hide my true identity, opting to hold onto an online persona and a real-life persona. I refused to have anything to do with Facebook because they insisted on a real name and I was not about to give up that information. To me, it was too valuable for anyone but my closest acquaintances to know. I held on to my anonymity for years, thinking that I was beating the system, sticking it to the man, if you will. That is until an online real estate site stepped in.
I would periodically make sure that my name did not appear online anywhere and for a long time it only appeared in one place, the NASA/JPL Stardust Mission web site. That is because as member of the Planetary Society, my name was included on a silicon chip along with 999,999 other people. So, okay, it was just my name and that wasn’t a big deal. I found that my name did appear in search results along with my address and how much I paid for my house thanks to an online real estate site that data-mined government records. I tried to stay “off-the-grid” so much that all it took was some site with public records access to bring my plan to a halt. That’s when my online world changed.
I started small at the time and joined the professional network, LinkedIn. I used my real name, Jasen M. Buch, and uploaded my resume, some personal details about my education and skills and I was suddenly, with the click of a mouse, no longer anonymous. After being on LinkedIn for about a week or so and getting a few former co-workers and other valuable people connected to me, I took the even bigger step by joining Facebook. By then, I already had an account, but I used an assumed name so that I could have a fan page for my blog. So, I changed the name on the account to my real name and set up my profile in such a way that it would not be found in searches. Within literally ten minutes I was staring at friend requests from people I went to school with. Suddenly I was part of a bigger world. I was, however, still unsure about all of this publicity I was receiving by my being “out there” on the Internet. Part of my justification to those that thought I was jumping on the bandwagon was that I claimed to be technologically savvy and literate of many computer technologies, yet I was nowhere to be found in cyberspace.
As another bold step in proving that I could handle this idea of being public, I linked my blog, which still didn’t use my real name, to my Facebook account (okay, to me it was a bold step). I figured that I really wasn’t a controversial person, so I figured it would be fine. It’s been fine so far. After reading Public Parts: How sharing in the digital age changes the way we work and live by Jeff Jarvis, I took the rest of the leap. I now have posted my resume on my own site, my real name is there too. I am no longer AlienCG online and Jasen Buch in real life because the Internet, regardless of its flaws, is real life.
Over the next few weeks, interspersed with other posts, I will be discussing the social aspect of the Internet and sharing. A lot of this is in reference to Mr. Jarvis’ book, but most of it is my own perspective and the things I’ve learned by being a more public person online. I will be discussing and refuting articles regarding social media. I’m not saying that social media is for everyone, or that everyone should automatically drop their reservations and bare their souls to the rest of the world. I am also not saying that we should just reveal everything, regardless of how personal it is, to the Internet.