Online Identity Crisis

Now that I have chosen a business name for my professional organising business, I am having an online identity crisis. The difficulty is working out to how to manage the level of privacy required for the different online activities I am involved in, and to what extent I an going to link those activities.

At the beginning of the year I was an employee with an email account and a Flickr account. The only problem I was facing was what types of photos to put on Flickr. I found the privacy process so confusing I gave up on the idea of privately sharing family photos that way, and just put up scenic shots. Eventually that account feel into disuse, so I had no way of sharing my photos online.

When I went overseas earlier this year, a few people suggested I do a blog, so a couple of days before I went away I started my first wordpress.com blog. After my experience with Flickr I decided to keep the privacy issue fairly simple. I hid the blog from search engines in the controls, and didn’t apply any categories or tags. That meant that only family and friends, or people they shared it with knew about it.  I put up a few pictures of myself, but didn’t write anything outrageous, and I was comfortable with that solution.

When I returned from my trip I decided to do a writing blog, and created May and September. After much agonising I decided to go semi-public with this blog, meaning that I share my name and photo, but no address or contact details. At least that was the intention. When I started using Gravitar I think I was displaying my surname accidentally. When setting up all these interlinked accounts, it can be difficult to know what is going to be public and what is going to be private. I am taking the view that although this website is only semi-public at the moment, it is possible that I may chose to go public, for example if I wrote a book that I needed to promote.

Now I am setting up a professional organising business, I want to have a business name, and I would like to have a business website. That website is going to need to have a higher level of identifying information than this blog, because people need to know who I am and be able to ring me for a consultation. What to do? Do I relate the websites so that they feed into each other? If I do that, the whole world will have my phone number.

This interlinking of identities is already causing an issue because I have blogged about the difficulty of choosing a business name. I have made a decision and registered a name, but if someone objects to the name I have chosen, they can find evidence of my ambivalence in my own blog. So instead of being stuck before a decision, I am feeling stuck after a decision that I am not confident about.

The online world is making it much easier to communicate, but it makes things complicated. In the olden days if I was a writer with a publisher, people would know my name and see my photo on the back of my book, but they wouldn’t have all my personal details. They would deal with me through my publisher. If I was a magazine writer, the publisher would send my articles out in print form, and I would not really know who the readers were, unless they chose to respond in an active way. If I was a person providing a service in my local area, my advertising strategy would be confined to people in my local area, and contact information would be contained within that area not broadcast to the world. Of course I am complicating the picture myself, by writing and publishing photos in the public sphere at the same time as wanting to set up a service in my local area.

It seems that I am in the process of shifting from being a private person, to a public person. It used to be that only my family, friends and workmates knew of my existence, and I was reluctant to change that. I have always wanted to be a writer, but one thing that held me back was the self revelation and loss of anonymity. Now that I have started writing in a small way, it feels right, and I want to continue. That means I need to relinquish some of my privacy. Being self employed as a sole trader means that I will need to promote myself, and thats another level of public visibility that I will need to get comfortable with. Apart from all this, I may decide to do some part-time work in the field that I left earlier in the year to support myself while I write and establish my business. This means potential employers may read what I have to say in my blog.

So where am I? For the time being I am not going to promote my identity on this website, but I am going to act on the assumption that it could be revealed in the future. I think its important that whatever I do is authentic and consistent with my values to avoid my different activities working against each other. I have a feeling that I am going to have to revisit the whole business name issue. I was rushing it because I need to get going with promotion so that I can start to earn an income, but that does not seem to be working out very well.

Its ironic that despite my longing for anonymity, my desire to create leads me to do things that are very self revealing, in more ways than one. Life is funny that way.

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