thoughts about public (online) conversations and virtual identity

This is a comment on David Nassar’s clipmark titled “huffPo with a Social Network

“…continuous connection among your public and private conversations.”

Yes, but do we need more?

Even with our communication (over)loaded with tools, the problem still remains: how the hell do we recognise & identify friends (and foes) on the worldwide web? By real photo or by avatar? By real name or by nickname?

Real life networks are not the same as online communities. The rules are different. The level of trust is different. The way we share information is different.

Think about what it means to have a real face. It’s part of your real life ID and part of your ‘login’ to your networks. ‘Friends of my face’ receive private information. Others just get to know my face. In other words, this part of my real ID is public, but the information I share, is not (by me).

Online communities act in opposite direction: Information is made public with the intention to share it with a general public. Having no control over information once made public also means using a virtual ID which contains less or none details about my personal identity.

So, “continuous connection among your public and private conversationswould only make sense when real life ID and virtual ID(‘s) remain separated throughout the whole proces of sharing. In case of online public conversations, this poses a dilemma.

How do I conversate on a personal or dedicated level, without compromising the safety of a public (virtual) ID?

At some point I might want to share some personal info with someone on twitter, myspace, facebook etc. I may have an option to send a private message, but what if someone posts a message, asking if I’m this person X (my name)? I cannot protect myself against that. I also don’t have time to check all messages.

Another dilemma concerns the continuity of virtual ID’s.

I use different nicknames, emailadresses, accounts etc, and all are highly dedicated to the type of conversation or contact. They’re not as static (read: continuous) as my real life personal details. Of course, most social networking services are designed to interweave public profiles. But using different profiles means there is a break in the continuity of my online identity.

Example: I love to take part in online public discussions. But there are times that I want to change my profile. For instance, when I started conversation under an anonymous alias, and things turn out to become interesting enough to present myself as a business, I wished I had used my business profile from the start. Unfortunately, I cannot change the virtual ID in reverse.

So here we have the difference between real life (RL) and online (OL) conversation:

RL: using a single, personal, continuous ID to share (private) information only with people I trust.
OL: using different virtual, incomplete ID’s to share (non-private) information worldwide

In order to maintain the separation, but also having “…continuous connection among your public and private conversations.“, we must find a way to overcome the problem of discontinuity of our virtual ID.

At this point I don’t have a solution. But I like to think about this. Maybe some smart people will come up with an idea :-).