A major concern has been the danger of sharing too much of our personal info online. As a result, many have been hacked or have potentially compromised their online and geographical privacy. Should we now present an alter ego instead while online? No, we shouldn’t, but we should be careful what we share. As we discuss our Integrity Online, please understand that we are at the point in time, where our online activity is viewed by others as an extension of who we are, offline.
This is the age of the internet and everyone is linked; shopping, catching the latest news, watching television and hanging out. Some of our daily habits have migrated from the physical realm as we know it, to cyberspace. The World Wide Web has become the hub for business, entertainment and social meet-ups, with the only expense being the initial purchase of a computer of some sort and a monthly subscription to an ISP (Internet Service Provider).
Dual citizenship – Country and Cyberspace
On the web, we have “dual citizenship” without the need for bureaucracy. A realm without immigration or customs, the cyberculture has become a decentralized world without borders. No territorial boundaries nor language barriers. There are browser plugins that translate foreign content and let us read in our native language. We have become one cybernation.
There is Freedom
Here we don’t have to declare creed, color, and age. Having total control of our domain, we are unrestricted in this realm and rely on our own discretion and personal values, to relate to our cyber neighbors.
We are free to visit millions of residences without the need for a special invitation. The only requirement is that we enter through the front door, as there are restrictions; specifically, a few firewalls that prevent us from taking advantage of someone’s privacy behind the scenes. We simply enter with a click.
Who Am I Online? Online vs Offline Identity
Online is where some also meet new friends and sometimes, even their future partners. Though most relationships remain online, some subsequently develop into real “tangible” friendships. Many have followed this new trend, as in modern-day dating… which brings me to something that can be tricky for us all. Especially since we live in two realms.
Since our presence is now virtual and actual, and online relationships now evolve into lasting partnerships and marriage, we are challenged to present our true identity online. Well, at least on social sites. Hiding behind a persona and pursuing an online relationship is complicated, as we have seen in some ‘reality’ TV shows.
Sharing Information Online – How Much Is Too Much?
We can’t be anonymous online and make purchases. Our credit cards are tied to a real person and transaction records are automatically forwarded to merchants. To sign up for most sites that offer subscriptions or provide services, we now have the hassle-free option to sign in with Facebook, Gmail, LinkedIn and others. Some even suggest that we use two-factor authentication, which offers an extra layer of security. This done by using our phone number associated with our Apple, LinkedIn, Gmail account etc. Quite convenient it is – so the people that matter know who we are.
The real issue then is not to release too much personal info about ourselves and our families online. This includes for obvious reasons, our personal address, date of birth (but FB facilitates that), photos of our children… hmmm
However, whether we agree with being anonymous or not, the same values that are important while face to face, are just as important in cyberspace.
Genuine identity matters for those
- who conduct business
- providing some public service
- providing an academic or professional profile
- who are seeking genuine relationships (and don’t care about privacy)
This is the only way that our brand, product and reputation will be taken seriously and deserving of any credit or value.
The Web was never intended by its creator Sir. Tim Berners-Lee, to be a place where we hide behind alter egos and fake identities. It was created primarily for real people to share information within a particular networked group.
Be Sincere but Be Safe Online
However, many have felt pressured into alter egos because of the fear of being victimized for their opinions and freedom to share unhindered. It is necessary to mention though that with the introduction of Facebook, Google+ and the like, our online presence is no longer private; although we have the privilege of some privacy tweaking. However, we can be careful by observing the following;
- privacy settings — determine who sees your info
- make sure that sites are secured with “HTTPS” prefix — protects your data/communication by encrypting it
- use strong passwords — phrases are more secure than complex gibberish
- do not post your location at any time for obvious reasons
- do not announce that you are traveling
- do not share your birth date
- do not log in to public open hotspots without a VPN (virtual private network)
- do not use public computers to do anything personal such as email or to make purchases
It is easy to create many personas that represent some modified version of ourselves. It is just as easy to create ten email addresses in ten minutes and be ten ‘different’ people too. While this may work for casual gaming sites and the like, it is not ideal for much else.
Let us be true to ourselves whatever we do online. Whether buyer or seller, user or content provider, anonymous or known. We must respect and honor our WWW community. Let our online identity match our real-life identity, as far as integrity is concerned. Let us not set out to defraud or present a concept of ourselves that is inauthentic. How different are your online and offline personalities?
We agree to certain stipulations by default whenever we use the web. To adhere to the copyright laws that protect content, declare and adhere to terms of service and privacy policies, that protect website owners and warn visitors/subscribers. This is supposedly agreed to by a ‘real’ person…us.
Please share your comments below. Thanks!