Reading articles about Google, particularly Buzz and the problems blogger Harriet Jacobs faced, brings home a lot of the attitude shift that has come with a lot of new internet technology. At the beginning of the noughties, the internet was seen as a foggy area full of malicious predators, and one was supposed to never, ever share information about one’s real life – address, phone number, and real name were all taboo. Then came social networking; we found our friends on sites like Facebook and Myspace, and now we search for new business contacts that way. And on our profiles, like the Google profile, there are blanks just begging to be filled with all of our email accounts and IM accounts and address. And if you have the Android operating system on your phone, you can have it tag your updates with your exact GPS.
If one has a network of only close friends, family, and business contacts, that might not be such a bad idea, but when one is using the internet for prospecting business contacts, or has a wider social network, it becomes an issue of balance. You want new prospective clients to be able to contact you, but not to know where you live. I think I’ve found what works for me; my city and my email are everywhere, my age on some things, and my real name, while my offline contact information is kept private. But my business is conducted largely online or in an office, where it’s the office and not my personal information being used as contact. Business-people in different fields, especially writing and editing, where marketing of yourself matters so much, need to find their own balance, and one that takes into account every tool they put out there. If you want to be anonymous, putting your full name and address into your gmail (and in turn your Google profile), might not be the route for you, whereas if you want to be highly public, you don’t want different nicknames and out-of-date information on every account.
So check your settings, and google yourself so you find what other people can find about you. Make sure it’s what you want them to be able to find. I’m off to check my Facebook privacy settings.