Social Relationships: The Merging of Online & Real-Life

As we use online environments for more day-to-day business and personal matters, I often wonder when we will make the jump to a more cohesive and accountable presentation of self that merges the two.

There are two ways I look at this. One is the more technical: how do others know that it is you online? This was recently addressed by Jitendra Gupta and Richard MacManus, as they surveyed identity verification services online.

The more interesting issue for me, is the evolution of perception. What I mean is: with increasingly more and more information available online about you, me, and everyone – how do our perceptions need to evolve to handle all of this data?

I was recently told about how employers check candidates MySpace pages, to get a better sense of who they are outside of their resume. What surprised me was that they judge you based on your friends. So if I have a link on my MySpace page to a friend who has pictures partying, will this somehow reflect on me? And further – what if this person isn’t really a ‘friend,’ but simply someone I linked to because they had a funny story on their MySpace page?

People are still sheepish about bringing themselves online in name and face, yet they are open about putting their data up, even if behind password and firewall. Increasingly, these will merge. But when will the masses feel comfortable using their real name online, their real photo, and be willing to confront their own judgements about others when they can easily learn more about a stranger than you could after years of friendship.

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