My (Not-So) Secret Identity

Up until about a year ago, my only claim to internet fame was an obscure little reference about me taking pictures at a university debate competition. This mention itself was so innocuous it was buried amongst countless pages dedicated to Indian Bollywood actress Juhi Chawla, or late American astronomer Kalpana Chawla. But now, after only one semester of my public relations program, I have suddenly graduated to the top of Google’s search engine. Most of this 15 minutes of digital fame, however, is thanks to Talk is Cheap, the social media unconference I helped organize with my instructor, Gary Schlee, and 15 other fellow students.

But with this newfound web celebrity, I’m beginning to find myself a bit obsessed with strengthening my net identity and seeing my name up there in lights! … well the light of my computer screen anyways… Take my friend, and fellow blogger, Rayanne Langdon for example. Thanks to a pretty knowledgeable sense of how to use the power of the Internet, and her great blog, Wide-eyed and Jaded, she has managed to achieve a fairly broad online reputation. In fact, the number of references that come up from a search of her name (Google juice notwithstanding) has managed to turn me green with envy. (Actually, I probably even added another hit to her moniker with this post!)

Anyways, so as I start to develop some sort of reputation out here in cyberspace, I’m also wondering what that rep is going to be, especially as I’m beginning to realize just how little power I have over what’s done with my name on the World Wide Web! As Gary Schlee’s so fond of reminding us, there is no way to manage our net identities and what is, or eventually will be,out there can either help or hurt us. So how do I control something that’s out of my control?

The sad realization is that I can’t contain the myriad posts, references and other links that appear with my name in the title. But, as a future PR professional, I can try and make sure that what I put up on my own is stuff that continues to paint a positive picture of me; and that means taking a long hard look at what’s on my social media networks. For example, my Facebook site; when you go to it, it seems pretty normal, even a little bit tame. There are pictures of me growing up, hanging out with friends, going out with my wife, etc. But could any of those images, taken out of context, prove to be an embarrassment? Most definitely, thinking of the one or two that I recently took down! In fact, a number of blogs have even started talking about the one of the unintended side effects of Facebook; that of extricating employees from their employers.

So as we begin to embark on our future careers in the world of public relations and try to make a name for ourselves out there, how do we ensure that the name we make in here won’t get us canned? Anyone got any advice?


5 Responses

  1. Hey Joe! Good post, and very relevant to all of us seeing as I’m sure we are all on some sort of social networking site like Facebook.

    When I first got Facebook, I didn’t pay much attention the photos I was being tagged in or the comments I left for others. This course has really opened my eyes to the impact that your online reputation can have on your professional life. Needless to say, my account is completely private now and I am much more conscious about the things i post on it.

    As for advice on ensuring that we make a good name for ourselves, I think it really all comes down to being aware of the perception you give of yourself. Don’t post pictures of yourself passed out in a drunken state if there’s a possibility your employer, or possible employer, might come across it! Don’t make a habit of ranting on your blog or others for that matter if you don’t want to come across as being a negative person.

    I think it mostly comes down to common sense in the end, and hopefully we all have some of that!

  2. Before long, War of the Words references will rise to the top of your ‘Joe Chawla’ Google searches. You may have noticed that comments on classmates’ blogs are featured more prominently than your own blog postings, simply because those blogs have been around days or weeks longer. That will change.

    Perhaps we should set up a pool to determine which day will mark War of the Words rising to the top of the ‘Joe Chawla’ Google search. I’m in for February 15. Will I be right?

    (Please note that this posting in no way should be construed as gambling, off-track betting or any other financial transaction prohibited in some jurisdictions.) 🙂

  3. No real comment here – just wanted to say interesting and insightful post, Joe. I enjoyed it and laughed along the way as I too have been checking out my name in “computer screen lights.”

  4. Joe, I have been wondering about the same thing with regard to blogs. Back in 2002, Heather Armstrong was fired for writing about her employer on her personal blog. This led to the term to be “dooced” (her blog is

    But now employers want us to keep blogs, but how do we keep our work and our personal lives separate online (or should we?).

    You might like to read and comment on my entry on this:

  5. Hi Gary, just wanted to comment that War of the Words has managed to secure top position on Google as of February 6, 2008. Thanks for your vote, but the house gets to keep the pot! LOL!

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