Are you who you think you are? Or are you who the Internet thinks you are?
This isn’t a trick question.
Back when we first started taking our lives online, it wasn’t hard to control how much information about ourselves ended up on the Internet. We sent emails, shopped, chatted and generally didn’t do a lot of sharing beyond message boards and chat rooms where ephemeral communication seemed to disappear into a great data void almost as soon as it was transmitted.
My, how we’ve opened up: Blogging, Tweeting and posting on Facebook are mainstream – Facebook alone boasts a population of 750 million. We voice our opinions on restaurants and movies with Yelp and Netflix and have our locations tracked by GPS (whether we’re aware of it or not) as we use our smartphones to post photos on the Web. And every stray thought we ever had that made it online is now indexed and available, a quick search engine query away. If somebody didn’t know better, they might form some pretty strong opinions about us based on who we’ve been on the Web.
All of that information in the cloud might be scattered in different corners of the Internet. But as it gets easier to aggregate, the online reputation we earn, for better or for worse, will have real-world effects. Think of it as a new version of your credit score. And in the near future, your digital reputation could affect your life even more than that score.