What Should Your Online Identity Be?


I was listening to a discussion today about people’s online identity. Years ago it was taboo, and even considered unsafe to have your own name in forums and chat rooms–the precursors of today’s social media. And a lot of people still create user names that allow them to be anonymous. I’m looking at my Twitter feed right now and see names such as “Shoemoney” and “Angelcollector.” Creating pseudonyms online is web 1.o thinking.

Intuitively I have always used my first and often last name in chat rooms, forums, and now Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and whatever comes next. The main reason I use my real name online is because, for me, the web is not a place where I go to hide, but I place where I go to connect,  share my voice, and engage clients and potential clients. It’s a place where what I do and who I am intersect in new and exciting ways. My holistic online existence allows me to write about my 10-year old son’s lack of “confidence” in his toilet after an unfortunate overflow incident, share pictures of great food I experience all over the globe,  as well as write about the new technology my company developed for TWR.org…a ministry that reaches into 169 countries in 202 different languages.

My online identity is the closest to the sum total of who I am. I share thoughts, pictures, and video as an ever-growing collage of, well, myself. My online friends–people I’ve only met through my online persona, often say to me “I feel like I really know you.” And, if they follow me on Twitter or Facebook, they probably do. Some might feel I share too much personal information, while others appreciate my transparency. However, my personal brand continues to grow and get exposure to people all over the globe. I could have been “Brazilio” or “LatinMan” if I were using the web for nefarious reasons.

Tom Peters was right: individuals are the brands of the future and not corporations. It would be interesting to find out what happens to Apple now that Steve is gone.

How intentional are you about your online identity? How transparent are you with your posts?

  • I’m a lot like you with my online identity – I use my real name, share personal stories, post pictures and be as transparent as is possible through type and pictures and not in person. I learned early on that it’s way too hard to keep up an online identity and offline identity that weren’t the same. I’d rather people know the real me, than some fake creation I made to hide myself.

  • I like the idea of using my name for my online identity, but I have a very common name. Chris Walker. It is difficult to find user names that reflect my real name without it already being cryptic or having numbers at the end. I have used churchpunk for my user name since Twitter started and I have found that it makes me stand out. People remember that before they remember Chris Walker. So I still use it. It isn’t that I hide my name. It is visible to people who visit my profile, but churchpunk seems to travel further than my real name. 

  • This was very helpful. I just got married, and all of my accounts–gmail, twitter, facebook, blogs–are my old last name. I have a chance to re-start. I couldn’t decide if I should come up with some creative “theme” for new URLs and IDs or use my new name. Your post gave me the confidence to decide that “yes,” I do want to use my name because I’m online because I want to connect with people not with Brands.

  • I agree that your online profile should be you (not a made up profile) but like Chris wrote it is hard when you have a common name.  I think most places suggest Mark McDonald 55,56 or 57 where as mrmarkmcdonald seemed to be free so that is what I use.  I don’t really trust made up profiles and the spam filters on some blog pages don’t either.  If you want to interact online then a plain user name is vital.

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