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Paradigm Shift in Internet Identities

(Previously posted to my private blog: A Minute with Mei.)

Anonymous; do you remember Anonymous? This was the name of the commentor to many a posted article. Anonymous. Anonymous has been seen less and less. Just a few short years ago, we were not recognized on the Internet. The Internet was this vast playground where we could safely go to browse websites, place a dating ad, read articles and comment on them, all from the safety and solitude of our home, dressed in our pajamas, stealing a late night good-night from an unknown stranger in a chat room.

Today, we have our Facebook profiles, linked to our Twitter accounts, which will direct readers to our blogs. Everything about us is known to others, if not by our own posting, then by the postings of our friends. Our readers know who we hang out with the most, who we respect, who we don’t. Our readers know if we like martinis or cola, if we like to hike or ski, and if we have three dogs or two cats and how many kids we have.

Personally, I love this new “society” – we are more closer-knit than ever, but it does have its drawbacks. You have to understand that everything you send out is continuously propagated. If you have children, you probably shouldn’t post their names, ages, and favorite ice cream flavors. But we don’t think about this when we post, “Charlie and Debbie had another fight, eventually brought peace back to the playroom with Debbie’s favorite pistachio cone.”

Do we really want to put out there how much we hate our job, when we really don’t, but only had the one bad day? Sure, as long as you remember that you can delete Tweets, and Facebook history items. Blog entries can be edited and deleted. The Internet is fluid, everchanging, non-permanent, but global. If your Tweet was read in the time before you deleted it, you may have to deal with the consequences.

I hope that I am not scaring anyone from using these tools, because I think they are wonderful, beneficial, society-changing tools. I am excited about them because I think they are going to be incredible for bringing people of diverse and like minds together in forums in which amazing things can be accomplished.

I am actually exceptionally pleased about this turn of events that takes away anonymity (sorry, Anonymous!) and brings us to channels in which we can actually be “friends” with people we would never dare dream of waving to in the past. It also holds us accountable for our opinions and statements.

In the past, Anonymous would comment on someone’s post, or in email discussions, would blatantly disagree with someone, going so far as to cast derogatory names out there, with no consequences. Now, we have to think – if we claim that our Facebook friend is full of hooey, we may lose a friend, or even a whole truckful! If I Tweet something inflammatory, I might just attract the “wrong” kinds of followers. By posting a blog entry that completely throws off everything I claim to stand for in “real life,” am I risking my professional standing?

I’m excited that we are entering a time when we, as a global population, will learn to think before we speak. I know I never have before, to my mother’s consternation – and perhaps to my own detriment. If this new world order – this online world – will finally teach me what over 30 some odd years of life experiences hasn’t been able to teach me, how great will that be?

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Profile Photo Steve Ressler

Agree with both...I think there still may be times when we go back to Anonymous but glad we are moving to a default of identity. Because it gets us closer to real life where when you make a statement, ask a question - you are representing yourself

Profile Photo Yun-Mei Lin

Yes, I'm not commenting about security obviously. That will always be an issue. I think it's wonderful that the environment is demanding to know who you are. Most recently, I've noticed that several news sites have gone to using Discus, an account based commentary profile, with which any reader can comment on a news article. Other new services are tying accounts back to existing providers like Yahoo! and GMail.

I also think it is great that you are representing yourself with everything you put out there. I feel that it's a start to making us a more responsible, accountable collective.

Profile Photo Steve Ressler

I've noticed the same thing about Disqus...Seems to becoming more and more prominent. And I like how most of them allow you to authenticate with existing accounts (yahoo, gmail, Twitter, FB, openId, etc)

Profile Photo Edward Williams

I remember anonymous 🙂

"think before we speak" - I love that; I think I'll have my kids start using twitter and facebook... 🙂

It's great though - less anonymity, more responsibility.... thanks for sharing.

Profile Photo Yun-Mei Lin

Ha, ha - Edward: I have visions of a whole new generation of tweens asking Mom and Dad to let them get on the internet and using the argument that it will make them more responsible.