I’m a romance author, in my late thirties, the owner of a golden retriever and an Australian. These are all tags, or aspects of my identity, that I’m happy to share online to enable people to decide if there is anything about me that is worth their time. I also identify as a steampunk enthusiast, a history major and a lazy cook.

Before the internet—and yes, I’m old enough to remember those days. See above. Before the internet, the be-a-better-person advice used to be: Don’t pigeon-hole people. I lived this wisdom and spent a lot of time trying to see people in their entirety.

Wasted effort!

Casual connections to people work on the basis of two tags colliding. I don’t need to see you in your entirety to share a recipe for Chicken in Cider (it’s here, if you’re interested). I just need to connect with that bit of you that, like me, is a lazy cook.

Of course, friendships don’t stay at this level. Friendships are the next step up. They occur when you stop think of Jo Bloggs as “wood carver” and start thinking of her as Jo. You move beyond tags.

But tags are where we start and how we organise our social world, and with the internet, they’re vital. It took me a while to adjust to this thinking, but now I’m convinced. Tags don’t depersonalise your life. They’re our default setting. And the more clarity you bring to defining your own tags, the more your online experience, interactions and friendships will align with your passions.