On the other side of your computer screen there sits a real person typing these words. A real person, with real live feelings, hopes, dreams, a past that stretches back into the mists of times (it was 1967, perhaps it was the smoky marijuana haze of time) and hopefully a long and glorious future. This real person does not exist online. Not even a vague reference.
I was reminded of this other day when I read something about people googling themselves and had an idea I'd done it once but couldn't recall the results.
That would be because there aren't any.
Lots of people with the same name as me do exist online with Facebook & MySpace pages and Flickr albums and job resumes. They appear in newspaper stories, or lists of swim meet winners or tags on other people's photos. But none of them are me.
Anyone googling me without meeting me first (for a job interview for example or because I'm the mom of one of their kid's friends) is going to be in for a bit of a surprise when they actually do meet me.
"You don't look a thing like your Facebook photo!" will be the least of it.
I have been online, in the big wide internet world sense since 1996 or so. I was on Prodigy, which was sort of like AOL, in 1991 and had been on local BBSs since 1988. That's 20 years of a virtual version of me. Yet there is no trace of the flesh & blood person.
I blame this on the 8 character user name limitation in effect back in the day. Also on the fact that from 1988 to 1994 I mostly participated in various MUDs and role playing games. Nobody used their real names in gaming. We all knew each other at Trake Dragonsword, Arianna Wyldwyd and Magical Mellicaent the Mendicant. (all of which had to be abbreviated down to 8 letters so I actually knew trdrgswd, ariwdwyd and mellmend). Prodigy gave you a 7 character ID that you couldn't change. (I was RTKG98A, DH was RTKG98B). AOL only allowed 8 letters in those day, and my first ISP was the same (I was embrajde).
By the time internet technology allowed more characters for a user name my brain was hard wired for 8 from over a decade of exposure. ComfyMom has 8 characters & the lack of space between the words is also a hang over from back then. Only once in 20 years have I ventured outside of the 8 limit. I used a 10 character name on a parenting board. (and I feel vaguely like I committed a crime for creating an email for havocandmayhem. 14 letters!)
My real name has more than 8 letters, and a couple of spaces, so the idea of using it never really occurs to me. Plus I have a knee jerk privacy response whenever I see a last name box & only ever enter one letter. I think Amazon & PayPal are the only people in the whole web I have ever been totally honest with when creating an account, and even Amazon greets me by an alias.
"But how does anyone FIND you?!?" my friends ask in disbelief.
Most likely, they just don't. And I am fine with that.
I have very few long lost friends to connect with. They know where I am or can find me by asking their parents to ask mine for my email address. All of my long lost friends are the kids of my parents’ friends. It’s been 24 years since I graduated High school. I’m not particularly curious to find out how many kids my sophomore year tormentor now has & I’d rather they not know about me. I’m on Facebook with part of my real name. If you went to high school with me, it is recognizable.
I wouldn't mind reconnecting with people from my Dragonlance gaming groups but they knew me as atmrorak (Autumn Aurrora, Paladin of the Knights of Krynn) so they aren't even looking for the real version of me.
I left the workforce in 2002 and my company then was technologically a bit behind the times. You can now find all my former coworkers online but back then it was all private & internal. So there is no job history to check out. I've never shared my beer bong photos or my Spring Break 1987 wet tshirt photos so there is nothing to hide either.
I do wonder how big of a detriment that will be if I ever do re-enter the workforce.
“Sorry, you don’t exist virtually. We can’t hire you.”