Searching for a Digital Identity
As the lines between the digital and physical worlds begin to blur, and reality and digital reality enmesh into a seamless state of existence and constant connection, we enter into a state of disconnection with the self. As we move into a more complete digital-physical integration of realities over the next decade, it will become vital to find a way to develop personas that can transverse the interstitial spaces between the flow of data and the ephemeral world.
A Split Personality
The Internet has the remarkable ability to move like a physical manifestation of the collective unconsciousness carrying information at the speed of light connecting us as one collective of human minds. To travel in this digital sphere requires no body, but rather a curious, creative, productive and escape-seeking mental state. Mind-to-mind connection is powerful, as crowd sourcing takes advantage of the collective wisdom of the crowd to develop ideas at a faster rate, allowing us to reach new heights of technological genius, but putting us into a constant state of flux.
In seeking to connect globally making the spaces between us vanish, the result is a global one-time, where history disappears and time and space are erased. What is the impact on culture? Without time and space, how is our identity impacted?
Sherry Turkle argues that we are more connected than ever before, yet more alone (see http://youtu.be/t7Xr3AsBEK4). Our human need to connect, or be in the physical presence of another person is as essential for our existence, as is the quiet that should be allowed in our lives to refuel creativity and reduce stress. Yet we connect digitally, instantaneously, and move together in a state of continual flux within the binary flow.
How we represent ourselves within this space impacts all aspects of our lives, and how the internet sees us impacts our existence within the physical world.
Balanced Vision in Digital and Physical Spheres
To balance the appearance of self between the digital and physical spaces of existence requires some delicate and strategic maneuvering. You will be Googled and how you appear in that search will have an impact on the first impression you make on potential clients, employers, employees, friends and your audience. The internet can reflect the persona you want it to by taking control of your digital image. If someone has the same name as you, or you have old content you wish did not appear on page one of a search, it is a good practice to seize the opportunity to shape your own identity, rather than have the internet do it for you. There are many channels you can move in to do this, whether it is social media such as Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest, LinkedIn for your professional presentation, Behance or Dribble for your portfolios, as well as your own .com and blogs. The endgame goal is to balance the vision of you, so that when someone meets you in person, or on the web, you appear to be the same. People love stories and personalities, so once you are over the fear of being seen online, become ubiquitous and share the parts of you that help you professionally and personally as you build up your digital persona. If you control your image online, you will be able to make the impression that will assist you in both the digital and physical spheres.
Facial Recognition and Personality Aggregator
With the advent of Google Glass and facial recognition cameras, how long will it be before we see the creation of a personality aggregator? Imagine the power of such an application. Facial recognition tools could connect your face to your websites, blogs, social media channels, online habits, interests, friends, reading interests, education, work experience, employment, travel, Instagram photos, and tweets. As you walk down the street, your internet interfaces could pull live data together from the internet of things, feeding the personality aggregator and building up an online persona. Your activity as a prosumer or non-activity would impact your influence and add to the information collected about you and your personality. A frightening thought perhaps, but it is possible, and could be a very powerful tool in the hands of the likes of Facebook and others to send you advertisements and introductions to people with similar personalities. As we are surrounded by more and more smart objects, our online identity will surely be impacted.
Like the Roman god Janus, we need to look in two directions simultaneously to move successfully in the space of flows that dominates our network society, interacting in both the physical and digital spaces of our realities. Janus is the god of change, time, transitions, passages and more; a character befitting our modern existence where we walk down the street in our physical world, respond to the phantom sense of an incoming text message, and engage in the flows of the digital world. As the two worlds of our existence engage more deeply into an intertwining reality of information flow created with the assistance of smart objects, our ability to work, learn, think, explore, love, engage, and be entertained within a global one time will impact our lives and personalities in a profound manner. By taking control of the presentation of ourselves, we can at least influence how the internet represents us, thereby attempting to make it consistent with our physical personality.