On Thursday evening, Mary Madden, a researcher at the Pew Internet and American Life Project came and spoke to my Digital Literacy class (and the many other people who showed up!). She give a very interesting talk, with a good question and answer session at the end. On Friday she was nice enough to make herself available and a few of us met in Crossroads Cafe to have a more informal conversation.
One thing she talked about which is really interesting to me is online identity management. Increasingly, we have more and more information about ourselves available online. That can be good or bad, depending on the level of visibility we want (some people want it to promote themselves), and depending on the quality and type of the information. I might be happy to put my name, my major, my interests, my activities, and a list of my friends online, but I don't want my phone number or address to be so readily available.
Professor Silver has mentioned a couple of times that by the end of this class, the number of Google hits with our name will go up dramatically. To see if this is true, I searched for "amber mcchesney-young" in quotation marks in Google, and got 10 hits.
All of them are about me - as far as I know there are only four other McChesney-Youngs in the world, and they are my immediate family. If you search for my dad's name you get 4,460 hits because he is a very active member on lots of archived email lists. My mom gets 46 hits, my older brother has 19, and my younger sister has 6 - I will always be the middle child. ;-) Anyway, there's kind of an interesting variety there. Most hits are relatively recent, since I've been at USF. One of the more obscure ones is results from a Bay Area Orienteering Coalition activity I did, I think with my Girl Scout troop, on the UC Berkeley campus. We had to navigate around the campus, and answer things like "Which direction is the bear statue facing?" (East, by the way.) Two others, which are fun and just a little embarrassing, are guestbook entries I wrote when I was ten years old (that's almost twelve years ago!). Remember back in the day when people had their Geocities and Angelfire pages with random information, animated GIFs, and guestbooks? They always said "Please sign my guestbook!" and sometimes I did. It's similar to the comments we now leave on blog entries. In these guestbook entries, I told the person that I was 10 years old and liked synchronized swimming. It's from 1996, the year my family first got the internet. Very magical and exciting. Check out Kate's Twenty Second Guest Book. It's fascinating - totally a blast from the past.
In addition to my Google hits, I have a MySpace page (which only includes my first name on the page, but does have pictures and says that I go to USF), and my Facebook page (which is only visible to people in the USFCA network and my friends in other networks). My MySpace page has very little on it, but Facebook has a fair amount of information (no address or phone number). I don't think there's anything I wouldn't be okay with an employer seeing, though. So to sum up, at this point, I'm pretty cool with my online presence. If someone wanted to find me in person, I'm sure they could, but it would take a bit of effort. They can find out a lot about me, but it's stuff I'm comfortable with. Yay.
Just a note for accuracy, the 10 hits that show up are with "very similar" results omitted. When those are included I get 19. Some are the same page over and over, but there are some distinct hits there. Let's see if Professor Silver's prediction is correct and my number of hits goes up.