Hello, my name is… Ben. Well, that’s not my actual forename, just a shortened version of it, but that’ll do for now. The “issue” of privacy came to me just less than 48 hours ago – I recently decided to brand myself (more on that some other day), and as such I wanted to use an identity. It’d be me, but not the me I was born as – not [redacted].
See, a month ago during Social Media Week in Copenhagen I attended an event on online identity. The debate was interesting and heated, where two ladies – Trine-Maria Kristensen & Pernille Tranberg – were debating on how much to share online, especially when it comes to your online persona. These ladies were virtually at the opposite extremes – Trine-Maria is the optimist who sees the positive ways of using social media; Pernille is the skeptical who warns people to be aware of the pitfalls in social media. And though Trine-Maria was discussing how open she is online and what datasexuals are (those who share pretty much everything about themselves online ; those who share what they ate on Foodspotting, their location on Foursquare, their running activities on RunKeeper and their general fitness activity through a Nike+ ID wristband linked to their Twitter profile – yeah, them, the datasexuals), Pernille enlightened us on how she has more than one identity, depending on situation.
And throughout the whole whoopla I thought – what’s the worst that could happen? So what if someone in Kentucky knows that you had Kentucky Fried Chicken for lunch through your Foursquare checkin? So what if your Facebook friends see that you’ve been listening to the whole N*Sync discography all day long on Spotify? Really – what’s the worst that could happen?
And in this mental monologue it dawned on me – I’m a datasexual, a datasexual who goes by the name of Ben. Just Ben. On Twitter, where I share all of my randomness, I’m Ben. Years back (circa 2006) I used to be “Ben Smith” on social media. Ben because, again, it’s a short version of my actual longer, Italian name. Donkor because, well, that’s actually my surname. And besides I didn’t really want to come up with a fancy surname like “Richardson”, “McCormick” or “O’Brien”.
I realised that if I was using my full name, I wouldn’t be sharing as much – I use my full name on Facebook and I update once a week, twice if I feel fancy, thrice if I want to show off a recent vacation. However, as just “Ben” I share, reshare and sometimes overshare (same with my previous Twitter account that I deactivated).
So here I am now, as “Ben Donkor” online – a name vague enough to keep me slightly anonymous, with a surname peculiar enough to keep me findable by other like-minded people (e.g. professionals, recruiting managers, fellow geeks).
Google+ doesn’t seem to like that change though – after changing my name to Ben they waited 10 days to hit me with a “your profile has been deactivated due to fraudulent activity”. I know right, Ben sounds like such a fraudulent name. Perhaps to be more credible I should have a longer name like, Bartholomew, Horatius, or Eustachius.
Now, they reinstated my account today, but the point is – privacy is a big thing nowadays, and so is your identity, whether you’re a data freak or whether you disseminate your online identity across a stream of profiles in the hope that no one finds you.
Because no one will find you. Right?