I am active online. I have been blogging since 2003, using my real name. I write guest posts and contribute to a number of other blogs and websites. I use Twitter and Flickr and Facebook and YouTube, and if you Google me you’ll get a whole lot of links that will tell you something about me. You could say that you can find out a whole lot about my personal brand with a quick search.
On occasion, I have met someone for the first time, and they already knew a fair bit about me. When it’s someone I’ve connected with online it’s cool, because I probably know something about them, too. But when it’s someone I don’t know anything about myself, I feel at a bit of a disadvantage. It’s uncomfortable when someone says, “Oh, yes, I know you don’t drink bottled water, I’ve read your blog,” right after they offer you a bottle of water and you politely decline. If they hadn’t read my blog, the exchange would be innocuous, but now I feel as if I’m making some sort of political statement.
I realize that by being a fairly open book online, I’m inviting strangers into my life. I’m OK with that, in general, which is why I do it. Every time that I post something online, I do it knowing that my mother, my grandmother, my kids’ friends’ parents and my boss could be reading. And so there are certain things I don’t talk about (cough S-E-X cough), and other things that I don’t talk about until I’ve had some conversations with the people closest to me. Because your mom shouldn’t find out that you were laid off by reading a Facebook status update.
In spite of my precautions, there are times when I wonder if it’s a good thing that I’m so easy to track down on Google. It’s not so much strangers who feel that my words resonate with them that give me pause. I’m looking for connection when I publish a blog post or send a tweet, and if other people read what I have to say and count me in their online community as a result, I’m nothing but flattered. What I’m more concerned about is when prospective clients, or prospective employers, or prospective employees check me out and form an opinion about who I am and what I’m capable of before they ever actually meet me.
I think I’m fairly honest and authentic when I write. I certainly strive to be, anyway. While I have created some sort of internet persona, I would say it’s very true to who I actually am. If that’s the case, why would I be concerned about someone reading something I’ve written online and pre-judging me?
I think it’s precisely because I am so honest with my opinions on the internet that I worry about the personal implications. When I am meeting someone for the first time I don’t tend to share a lot of toddler poop stories – especially not if we’re meeting in a semi-professional setting. But when I’m writing about my motherhood experience, well, poop figures largely. And so I’m basically opening the conversation with a whole lot of personal info.
I imagine that one day, having a sizable internet footprint won’t seem so strange. The number of people on Facebook alone is growing by leaps and bounds. In my husband’s family, there are at least three generations of people who have Facebook profiles. And in the fall when I visited a local high school I learned that instead of handing in a paper, many teachers now have students publish posts on student blogs. It will increasingly be the norm that someone can track you down via Google.
So what does this mean, in terms of living a life of intention and purpose? In my mind, living with intention is about living deliberately, and making choices that work for you. It’s also about owning your actions. So if you’re active online, you need to make choices that you can live with, and then do your Thing without apology. Some people will love it, and some people won’t. That’s OK – they clearly weren’t your people, and you don’t need to waste energy worrying about them.
And so that’s what I’m doing. My name is Amber Strocel, and I am a blogger, life-crafter, mother and shoddy housekeeper. If you Google me, you will find out all of these things and more. I am being as authentic as I can be, and I hope that you can relate. But no matter what, I will continue to be me, and I will continue to share from my life and my experiences. I will live and write with intention and purpose, and I will make no apologies. Because sharing my words has become part of my purpose, and I’m not stopping.
What about you? Are you easy to track down online? How do you feel about that? And have you ever had a negative experience as a result of meeting someone who’d read your blog or status updates? Please share!