Your digital identity: picture perfect or a hot mess?
Recently described as, “a massive spaghetti-ball mess,” the doomed MySpace serves as a cautionary tale to Internet startups and monolithic social media players alike. But are we ordinary citizens facing a similar state when it comes to our digital identity, and what can we do about it?
How it got so messy
The short answer is data exploded. It’s everywhere. Our health records, our banking practices, our personal lives, our professional histories, our demographics, our preferences, our habits, our outrage, our humanity: It’s likely all on the web in one data stream or another.
What’s more, we ordinary Internet users put quite a lot of it there ourselves.
We’ve been busy…
- Facebook users share nearly 2.5 million pieces of content.
- Twitter users tweet nearly 300,000 times.
- Instagram users post nearly 220,000 new photos.
- YouTube users upload 72 hours of new video content.
- Apple users download nearly 50,000 apps.
- Email users send over 200 million messages.
- Amazon generates over $80,000 in online sales.
And those are 2014 figures, so consider them conservative!
The story of ‘you’ is a digital narrative that’s being told in a hundred different ways every day.
Whilst each data strand may tell its own individual tale, they’re not all true stories. Contrast the story of your location: It’s being sent out into the ether (and sold) on the back of that ‘free app’ you downloaded (fact). It’s different from the story of your potential health crisis (fiction), generated when you went on an online search rampage following a friend’s diagnosis. But it all goes into the same digital identity pot about ‘you’, regardless. You can but wonder, collectively do all these stories even resemble the ‘real you’?
Victim of the algorithm…
Mario Costeja Gonzalez would have a thing or two to say about digital context. You know Mario, he’s a living irony of our digital times – the man now famous for his right to be forgotten. Enter the European Court of Justice, raging debates on free speech v human rights; the unsettling acceptance of Google’s position as history’s unelected yet official scribe – and all because one or two data threads (18 words to be exact) did not reflect the whole context of Mario’s story or his identity.
When it comes to the story of you, this joined up mass of data threads can’t even be described as an unauthorized biography…you signed partial rights away when you accepted the Terms of Service Agreement …but don’t despair.
…or Master of your digital universe?
As an industry, and as a global Internet–enabled society, our perspective on our digital landscape is radically shifting, and with it our understanding of the true value holders. A whole new geography is emerging. Pockets of ‘you’ are not neatly contained to the ‘YourSpace’ of Facebook, Instagram or Twitter – and these landlords of digital identity are not the custodians of your story.
YOU are the centre of the Internet universe. You are the author, the curator, the brand manager, the data scientist and now even the benefactor of ‘you.’
At any point you can step up to the digital mirror to see who you have created and curate, tweak and opt in or out at will. Sort the digital fact from fiction, share what you want, draw your own line around what is private and what is public. It’s your digital identity and your story, and what’s more, you will get the royalties for sharing it.
Try the CitizenMe app.
Picture credit: Alex Wong
StJohn founded CitizenMe with the aim to take on the biggest challenge in the Information Age: helping digital citizens gain control of their digital identity. Personal data has meaning and value to everyone, but there is an absence of digital tools to help people realise its value. With CitizenMe, StJohn aims to fix that. With with a depth of experience digitising and mobilising businesses, StJohn aims for positive change in the personal information economy. Oh… and he loves liquorice.All stories by: StJohn Deakins