Julia Angwin of the Wall Street Journal recently wrote that she wanted to remake herself into a new person...at least into a new person as seen by Google. When Ms Angwin searched on Google using her own name she continued to see an old article written by her on top of the search results page . Although the link to the old article was popular, she didn't feel the article was her best work nor that it reflected who she was today. She then starts on an adventure into search engine optimization (SEO) as she tries to get what she tries to get the search engine to list instead the artides and Internet sites she would want people to see on top of the search results page.
Personally, I don't have any issue with search engines determining which of my work, sites, and references of me float to the top of the results page. If a search engine decides to use my name as reference to Internet pages that best reflect who I am....hooray for me. If a search engine points to something truthful about me in an embarrassing way, that is fine too because it will serve as a reminder to me just how much I have learned and evolved since that page was posted.
What I do have a problem with is when Internet surfers are pointed to another Bryan Ruby that isn't me. I do not like it when people are searching for me on the Internet and find another me that isn't me. I'm sure there are others that feel the same way as I do.
During the holiday season I reconnected with an old girlfriend from college via email. In the course of email exchanges she wondered if I was on Facebook (evidently becoming more popular these days for even my around 40 peers). In the past I haven't been too involved with social networking services such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace. I haven't seen the need to network via a service when I already have my blog, my professional work, and my sunny personality to do the networking for me. Yet, after giving my answer of "no I'm not on Facebook" curiosity got to the best of me. I began to wonder what people would find searching for my non-existent account on Facebook?
What they would find searching for "Bryan Ruby" on Facebook is a number of people under the same name. One of the Bryan Ruby's scared me as the page came up with someone who was leading a less than stellar lifestyle. Worse the picture of this person was someone who could be mistaken as me!
I have often said that if you are not willing to promote yourself when bidding on a job then you're sending a signal that you may not be worth promoting. On the Internet if you are not willing to promote yourself on a social networking site...someone with your name may instead promote themselves in the vacuum you have created. Against my wishes, I feel I have no choice but to start participating in some of the more popular social networking sites. The threat of someone mistaking someone else for me is just too worrisome. I've had a presence on the Internet for more than 10 years and why would I let that "reputation" get ruined by not participating further?
So this month I'm going to start slow with visiting social networking sites and open some accounts. Instead of Facebook or MySpace, I deced to work on my profile at LinkedIn. It is a work in progress so be kind. I know there are a number of improvements I need to make. Still, I can't help but feel I was coerced to join these social networking sites and I'm a little bitter about it.