Your Online Identity v. YOU: 5 Ways to Be Yourself Online

In an age where it is becoming increasingly important to be able to understand and utilize the web, it’s also important to establish an online identity. Because of the lack of face-to-face communication online, it is often that we hide behind a veil of anonymity. But how does the person you portray online match up with who you are in real life? Here are a few tips on finding your online identity:

  • Use Your Real Name – If you use your real name or some variation of it, you’ll be treated with more respect and add credibility to the things you’re saying. Your comments will be seen as statements made by a real person, not a robot. A big part of building your personal brand is by establishing contacts and relationships, and it’s important to be forward about who you are in order to establish those conversations.
  • Use an Actual Photo – I love avatars as much as the next guy. They allow you to be creative and show a side of your personality that might attract other users to find out more about you. But when you put a face to a name, you’ve got credibility and character. Who are you more likely to have a conversation with: a smiling person or a dancing cartoon banana? At least choose something representative of your original ideas or business.
  • Say What You Would Say IRL – I was recently appalled by some of the comments I read in response to a friend’s rap video (which I will refrain from referring you to here), and I wondered what would make someone say such awful things. The veil of anonymity protects those who sling hate and allows them to get away with saying whatever they want. Here’s my challenge, though, only say online what you would say in real life. What you say online could really hurt someone in real life, so if you don’t have anything useful to add, keep it to yourself. Read this post to see an example of what I’m talking about.
  • Make Real Friends – The people you talk to online are real people. In fact, meeting people online can actually be easier than approaching them on the street or at a function. Online communication should only act as a doorway, however, as you should begin your conversations in a virtual world and finish them up over coffee. Tools like Twitter and others can allow you to get a lot of people’s attention at once, so why not have an event that allows you to have a conversation in real time about something other than the tools you’re using to Tweet? After all, part of being social is being social, right?
  • Be Yourself – One of the best ways to be yourself online is to BE YOURSELF! Speak up, respond, react, be spontaneous and engaging and say what is important to you. Not only will this do wonders for your credibility, but it will also help you stop hiding from and possibly judging others. Being yourself can also help you brand and promote yourself in situations that could lead to employment, relationships, or real world opportunities to back up the things you say online.

I know that anonymity is a virtue in the online world as far as keeping your secrets safe, and your investments private— but if you’re going to participate on Web 2.0, it pays to be upfront about who you are.

(Photo via:Just-Us-3 on Flickr.)

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