The Acquisition of Identity

I like to get it right. You name it: a relationship, a belief, a cause, a hunch, a story, and today, in this world of computer-based reality; my online identity.

An online identity is an online social identity that Internet users establish in online communities and websites.

Before the Internet (when paper was my journalistic default) I used a pseudonym. Why? I wanted to accomplish a gender-blind effect. It also shielded me from stalkers.

But blogging has made me bold. Today, the more “real” I am the better.

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Accurately presenting who I am, putting forth the facts, is essential in my mind — genuineness, authenticity, truthfulness — the underbelly of online capital — these are the jewels in my digital crown.

LinkedIn, a social networking site for the business set relies on the willingness of their more than 29 million users to accurately post online identities. Work experience, its scope and scale is just one of the data sets gathered amongst LinkedIn’s participants.

Not long after LinkedIn made their Internet splash, I set up a LinkedIn profile, putting forth a work summary which I believed was accurate.

“If you do not completely remove or accurately revise your profile, I will begin taking appropriate steps with LinkedIn” read a recent email. It was from the Director of an organization where I once volunteered my professional services.

The work had no relation to my core online identity — that of a journalist committed to reporting and commenting on technology. Nonetheless, I chose to include the work in my LinkedIn profile. Since the organization’s central mission had figured so prominently in my life history and mirrored values I held so dear, not including it seemed wrong.

As a condition to access LinkedIn, there is a User Agreement whereby one of the stated obligations of the user is to “provide accurate information.” But what of hyperbole — those Al Gore instances (“I took the initiative in creating the Internet”) some claim (especially on a resume/work synopsis)?

Was I a participant of hyperbole?

“We hope that users will not post inappropriate or false content,” says LinkedIn’s PR Manager, Krista Canfield. “However, if you notice that someone has created a fake or inappropriate profile, you can visit their profile and flag their profile. The profile will immediately come down and our customer service representatives then review the situation.”

“Let's say someone "flags" my profile. I get contacted by customer service and defend my profile as accurate and true. What happens then?” I ask. “Customer service deals with those on a case-by-case basis listens to both sides of the story and then resolves it in a way that works fairly for both parties,” Krista explains.

“Hold your own, and know your name, and go your own way - everything will be fine,” sings Jason Mraz on his 2008 album: We sing. We Dance. We Steal Things.

Yes, everything will be fine.

I stand behind my name, my truth, my online path.

And I’ve got a good lawyer.

©2008 Julie Holley

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