Online identity management is a subset of online reputation management in that it deals with the management of who a person appears to be online. One example of online identity management is the use of different personas for various online interactions in an attempt to mask personal identity exposure. Another is the use of a persons true persona online, but in a carefully managed way using search engine marketing, content management and public relations strategies.
Dual Online Identities
In the post-privacy age the management of ones identity online has become more important than ever. Disclosure of one's true identity can open a person up to documented criticism that can never be expunged. Using one's true identity is necessary in many instances, LinkedIn being one example. But in a time when opinions are twisted, misrepresented and can in some cases become viral reputation landslides it is often best to manage a separate identity for online discussion.
Pseudonyms: Protection from Search Engines
Many people make the mistake of exposing their true identity online when voicing an unpopular idea. They are often lambasted, abused, or accused of many unrelated things. The permanence of search results means that it is now common for individuals to end up with ruined reputations by simply exercising their right to an opinion. It has almost become necessary to cultivate either an alternate persona online, a pseudonym, or to mask oneself behind a wall of anonymity, if one is to hold contrarian views online today.
Bill Bullard said that
“Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge… is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world. It requires profound purpose larger than the self kind of understanding.”
The problem with exposing oneself online is that one's opinion may be the object of other peoples opinions, a risk in the wild west of the internet. Pseudonyms are a tool to mitigate that risk.
Demosthenes and Locke
The book Enders Game discusses the online conversations between pseudonyms used by a brother and sister with apparently contrary viewpoints, their online identities were Demosthenes and Locke. Set in a post-privacy future they engage in conversations that would have been fatally unpopular.
Reputation at the Cost of Ad Revenue
Today, reputations can be destroyed by one strong website attacking the opinions of an individual. An article by a blogger or journalist intended to get the publication a few more hits, and therefore advertising revenue, permanently destroys the reputation of its subject. It has been our experience that the journalist either blithely ignores those she has hurt, or is oblivious to the lives affected. Years after the journalist has moved to another career, those people her opinions affected are often still suffering. But it isn't journalists fault really. On their own the damage wouldn't be so wide spread. But search engines magnify their opinions a thousandfold to the point where, to be safe, pseudonyms and anonymity are becoming necessary aspects of modern life.
Managing True Identity by Sculpting Message
Why let a corporation like Google decide your online fate? Thankfully, it isn't necessary to continually hide behind a wall of anonymity because a persons true identity online can also be managed. The dangers of espousing unpopular opinion online can be mitigated by relegating more combustible comments to a pseudonym, while containing mainstream content to ones real world identity. A combination of search engine marketing, content management and public relations outreach are useful for managing online identity effectively. By identifying controlled websites and optimizing the content on those sites, developing strong back links to pages on those sites, and keeping abreast of search engine algorithms the most often seen search results reflecting online identity can be burnished.
Web Content Affecting Online Identity
News sites, blogs, social media, forums, personal web sites, video, and online imagery all contribute to the development of a personal mythology. A somewhat controllable network of pertinent online content designed to be consumed by search engine users can be grown. Blogging, contributing to others blogs, a carefully messaged LinkedIn profile, and managing ones public information available on Facebook are all actions that can be taken to take back at least some control.
The Objective of Online Identity Management
The objective of online identity management is to be free to speak ones mind online while both protecting and promoting ones personal brand online. One of the most effective ways of doing this is to develop one or more pseudonyms used to interact online that do not overlap with a carefully cultivated public image.
Whether it be to protect an online reputation from detractors or to improve a damaged or weak online reputation, online identity management has become key in society today, especially for children and teens.