Building my Digital Identity

I recently attended an Elluminate session with Di Benard, hosted by Edublogs about protecting your Digital Identity. I logged into the room, not knowing exactly what to expect. I came out with my head spinning (in a good way!)

As a member of the first generation to use computers in the classroom, I have been going online and using computers for almost 2 decades. While I am very careful about identity theft when it comes to my credit cards, I never thought about protecting my online identity. From time to time I will Google myself to see what I find. I know that one bad thing or misnomer can lead to troubles down the road, but I never worried about anyone 'stealing' my online identity--mostly because I didn't think I had one.

While I understand the importance of my digital legacy to protect my reputation and my name, I never thought of protecting my actual online identity. Di described your online identity as
your online 'brand.' As a new blogger and a frequent user of Twitter, I have begun to understand this distinction. My Twitter name is how people recognize me. More people know me by my Twitter name than my real name on the Internet. In fact, when I set up my Diigo account, I used my Twitter name so that others could recognize that it was me.

In addition, my blog's name is another 'brand.' People who don't know me know the name of my blog. These are my 2 most prominent online brands, but were I to spend more time on Second Life, that name would also become part of my brand. At this point, if I saw someone using my online name, it would not only bother me, but I would begin to be worried about people confusing me with the other person. I'm not famous enough to worry about people stealing my username to further their own agenda, but it happens on a daily basis. Just think of all of the faux MySpace & Facebook profiles for celebrities out there!

Di offered a few sites where you can check to see if your username is being used so you can determine whether it is identity fraud or to at least be aware of how and where your username is being use. - check whether your username is being used on a variety of sites - same as
KnowEm-a few different sites represented. They started following me on Twitter after the session!

Please, please, please check out Di's recent updated post on EduBlogs Live. It includes a run down of the Elluminate session as well as definitions and explanations of terms. It was so informative and effective that right after leaving the session I went in and closed my Friendster account that has sat unused for months.

One solution Di offered was using OpenID to log into sites that accept them. Through OpenID you only need one username account that is used across many
different sites. If you have ever joined a NING, you'll find that you only have to create an account once. After that, you just log in with your NING account and your info and username are automatically entered. Google also uses an OpenID for its different apps. My Google profile is the same on Blogger & YouTube as a result. This avoids the need to memorize a million passwords and it eliminates the chance that someone could hack into one of your many accounts without you noticing.

As I build my online identity and 'brand' myself, I find that I have become attached to my brand. It has become a part of me. While my off and online personalities do not differ, I do have "Digital Schizophrenia"- dual personalities that vie for attention. This phenomenon makes meeting online friends in person that much more exciting!


  • Excellent overview of digital identity and branding. For me I decided fairly early to brand myself Sue Waters and now try to be consistent across all networks with that brand including the same avatar.

    That way people can easily recognise my work (hopefully).

  • Great Blog! I look forward to reading more.

  • Timely post - raises a lot of great questions for educators to ask about branding our online identities and, perhaps by extension, our teaching. Thanks!

  • Thanks, Sue for stopping by! You are definitely a brand. When I got to NECC this year I heard people say your name like it were a Hershey bar :-) --or maybe a Google bar?-- You've definitely done a good job at branding yourself. I guess it helps when you have a catchy name to begin with!

    Typhaney--thanks for checking out the blog!

    Mr. Teacher Person--what a great brand you've already got there! I love the idea of using or 'brands' to give personality and uniqueness to our teaching. I think some teachers already do that without knowing it. I remember those teachers that you knew about before you even got to their grade!

    Thanks again to everyone for reading and sharing your thoughts!

    Mary Beth

  • Well I learnt early on that there was more benefits for me to have my name easily identifiable on the web than to worry about negative aspects. That now means that yes people recognizes it.

    LOL comparing my name to their most favorite or least favorite chocolate?

  • Good post!

    I remember back in the late 90's when the Internet was still young the best part of it was the anonymity. My friends and I all had multiple "fake" accounts on numerous sites... we could do whatever we wanted and nobody could find out who we were (or so we thought).

    Of course these days I want people to know my name. I've been trying to standardize my avatars and usernames as much as possible and, for the most part, I've done a good job. The websites that you provided have proven to be excellent resources for me to remember where I've got accounts under different usernames.

    There are only a few problems with these identities. First, they're easier to "steal" because everyone knows that you use the same ID. So if a new website comes online and I know about it from the beginning, I might sign up a username of Sue Waters... and now I've got control of her name (albeit on only one site). The second problem is that of SPAM. I used to use anonymous usernames and never left an email address or website due to that problem. Google's mail filters are amazing (99.9% in my case) but I know a lot of email providers who constantly allow SPAM to bypass their filters.

    Sorry for the long reply :-) Thanks!

  • excellent, informative post. thanks!

  • Sue-- their favorite chocolate bar, of course!

    Ryan--sounds like you were a troublemaker back in the day :) Thanks for bringing up the whole avatar/picture thing. I have definitely made a point (as Sue has also done with her Coke & Hershey bar photo!)to use the same photo across all my social networks. This allows for easy recognition (I hope).

    You bring up a good point about the 'stealing' problem. I know that some celebrities can't even use their own name on Twitter or Facebook because a fan has already taken their name and created a profile!

    Don't worry about the long reply--it was thought provoking!

    Nana--thanks for stopping by! I'm glad you found the post informative.

  • Mary Beth, thanks for creating this overview of creating and protecting online identities. It also promotes the positive side of traveling in the cloud -- so many people to meet and share, so do identify yourself. When I started Twitter, it was to tweet with my granddaughter, and I started Facebook to stay in touch with my son--so I used my family google name. Twitter has become part of my educational PLN. Now I make sure my name is on those areas with different user names, so people know it's the same person, just a different hat. I wish I'd had this blog when I started! Also, so many bloggers have no name on the sidebar as an introduction. It's hard to comment TO someone, or identify with them, in agreement or not, if the name isn't there. All my colleagues at school so new to this will appreciate this info. Thanks. Have a great year in your classroom!

  • Sheri,

    It is hard to kind of 'move backwards' once you have created an online identity. I still don't know how I feel about my particular 'brand,' but I, too have made a distinction between my professional identity & my personal identity, though I still have personal friends I follow on Twitter.

    I still keep Facebook for my close, personal friends only.

    I have actually made great friends on Twitter, though our friendships are very different and more professionally based.

    I hope your staff finds the post useful!

    Thanks for stopping by!

  • Great food for thought!

    Word of warning about Friendster - they let people use an email address without verifying it first. I kept getting emails from them and deleted them as Spam until one day it annoyed me enough to go look. Someone had made an account with friends and comments and everything. Friendster wouldn't shut it down, so I sent the "Forgot my password?" to myself and took it over. That was fun. (Until they did it again after I eventually closed it.)

    I use BackType to keep track of my comments so I could tell if someone is impersonating me in that regard. I will defintely be checking out the others you mentioned!

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