Technology, Innovation, Impact. Humor on the side.
Years ago when people thought of “identity theft” they would inevitably imagine crooks running up others’ credit cards and stealing SSNs from the deceased. While undoubtedly there are still cases of identity theft that fit this picture, social media has seemingly brought out a very new type/definition of identity theft all together. How? Interestingly enough – through namesakes.
In the years prior to the hyper-growth and popularity of social media, I’d never actually met someone who shared my first name, let alone had my full name. However, the web today is brimming with just that. As of the time of writing this, I have 19 namesakes on Facebook, 10 namesakes on Twitter, 6 namesakes on LinkedIn, etc. I am not a celebrity; and, while I can’t personally validate it, I doubt the account-holders are frauds or anything other than individuals that share my name.
In an ordinary world, this doesn’t matter much. However, in the tech-infested, hyper-social, always on[line], and mobile world we’ve become, having a namesake – especially one(s) highly-active in social media – becomes problematic. As a society we have fallen into a pattern where everyone goes hunting for information on others: we obsess over Facebook for photos and insights into commonalities in a new romance; recruiters at companies and schools alike screen applicants by their web presence and activities, etc.
If you were to Google yourself right now, would you like what you see? After doing this activity myself, I was horrified to see that I had one Twi-hard namesake raving about vampire stories, a soap-opera laden Youtube channel of another namesake, and another trying to pass-off a profile picture of a Bollywood actress. While there is nothing per se wrong with any of that, it is simply not me. Even worse is the lack of distinction between me and a namesake to the casual web observer and the havoc such confusion causes. I actually had a case where a future colleague had chosen to friend me on Facebook prior to any face-to-face meeting, only to accidentally friend a namesake with a similar background and started having conversations with her thinking it was me. Imagine if it had been a recruiter or potential business partner for the job/company-of-your-dreams or what not!
Identity theft is no longer just about money and credit cards. It has morphed into an even greater type of identity risk – your reputation, both online and off.
So – what does this mean? For starters, while plenty of other sites and articles will tell you to analyze your web-presence and tell college kids trying to score their first job to remove their party profile pictures, few will tell you that you really need to analyze your namesakes’ web-presence as well as it too could have a detrimental impact on your life and career outside of the web. And, while you may love your internet anonymity and low-key profile, if you have namesakes (especially those with similar backgrounds) that are thriving in social media in ways contrary to you and your beliefs – it may be time to take the plunge and become more active on the web.