How we establish and define personal identity is important. The ways in which we recognize and define who we are, our potential and even our limitations, are integral to how we interact with others, how we approach life and the paths we take for years to come.
“All of us take pride and pleasure in the fact that we are unique, but I'm afraid that when all is said and done the police are right: it all comes down to fingerprints.”
― David Sedaris
As Sedaris cheekily points out, people tend to enjoy discovering and defining those attributes they believe truly sets them apart from everyone else. At the end of the day, however, it’s your ‘fingerprints’, those undeniable, one-of-a-kind identifiers, that will ultimately be used by everyone else to shape and define who and what you are…at least in terms of perception.
And online perception is online reality.
Nowhere is this truer, or more germane, than in the online community, where your online fingerprint, your online identity, works to shape the boundaries and definition of how you’re perceived by the world at-large.
Reshaping Your Digital Fingerprint
Like it or not, your digital fingerprint is built on and around the results people unearth when they search your name. And though there may be multiple items reflecting your online image in a positive light, one negative result can have a disproportionate effect on the entire make-up of your digital identity, creating a distorted version of yourself and causing your reputation enormous harm.
“One of the greatest tragedies in life is to lose your own sense of self and accept the version of you that is expected by everyone else.”
― K.L. Toth
The good news in all this is that you don’t have to accept this version of yourself, nor is your digital identity forever lost to forces beyond your control. There are steps you can take to get your online identity back on track, as well as to shape who you are and who you want to be in the vast digital landscape.
Ask Yourself: Can It Be Removed?
The process of redefining your online identity should always begin with a simple question: can the negative item be removed altogether?
Often times, and to most people’s surprise, the answer is yes, though the difficulty of removal depends on the nature of the post, where it is posted and so on. If the item in question was created by you on your Twitter profile or within your personal blog, then it may be promptly deleted. If the damage is coming from something posted by a friend or family member on an asset they control, then a polite removal request may be your best course of action.
If the search result comes in the form of a mugshot, revenge site comment, news article, professional review or other, the removal process can get a bit murky, complicated and expensive. If your item falls into any of the above categories, a little expert assistance may be required.
Bulk Up Your Online Portfolio
If you wake up one day to find your digital space filled, and thereby defined, by the chatter and gossip of others, perhaps even by people you don’t even recognize, then the time has come to get your own voice heard. After all, it’s your online identity. Your online image should convey your own unique tone, never someone else’s.
“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice."
Take steps to play a more active role in how you are defined online. Create a blog to demonstrate your knowledge, interests and accomplishments. Develop positive social media profiles surrounding your name or brand. Purchase a URL or two or three with your name, and build a website to become the central hub of your online image.
Bulking up your digital presence, while a time-consuming enterprise, allows you to better control the shape and direction of your online identity, and places you a better position to manage it in times of crisis.
Consider the Help of an Online Reputation Professional
Reinventing your online identity is no easy task. The challenges of removing and suppressing negative items can be considerable, if not monumental. As a result, engaging in an online image overhaul can be a time and labor-intensive endeavor, particularly if something harmful was posted by an authoritative source, or has been become entrenched and obdurate.
In other words, carving out a positive and enduring online space for yourself, establishing and building out that ever-so-important online fingerprint, can be tantamount to, well, moving a mountain.
If you’ve come into the New Year resolved to be a better you, and are looking to reassert control over your online identity, consult a reputation management expert at InternetReputation.com today. Our comprehensive repair and reputation management services, provided by an experienced team of ORM professionals, can help you design, develop and establish the online identity you deserve.
“We can spend our lives letting the world tell us who we are. Sane or insane…Heroes or victims. Letting history tell us how good or bad we are. Letting our past decide our future. Or we can decide for ourselves. And maybe it's our job to invent something better.”
― Chuck Palahniuk, Choke