I was listening to a piece on NPR about how the Girl Scouts are using online methods of marketing to sell their cookies. The scouts are told the following helpful tidbits to protect themselves online:
“Um, don’t show your picture, don’t tell your last name — you don’t want anyone to come find you, which is really bad,” she says. “Don’t tell them your phone number. If they say, like, ‘It’s safe, I’m OK, I’m a doctor’ or something, they might be lying.”
Let’s compare that with what Twitter says to use for your profile.
- A real picture of yourself is encouraged. It adds personableness to your tweets.
- Because the images are usually seen in a small version, a crop of your face works best.
Twitter wants you to show who you are. They have geolocation for tweets to show where you are. Keep in mind, there is nothing about Twitter that makes it so anyone needs to know exactly who you are or where you are. It’s not like it’s Foursquare or Gowalla, which shares where you are with your friends.
And this is just Twitter.
Think about the implications for Myspace, or Facebook, or LinkedIn. With each of these networks, your face, your personality, your name, and your work are what draw people into you. At the end of the day, you’re yourself, and it’s available for EVERYONE on the planet to find and corrupt.
Keep in mind, a truly malicious person can go ahead and create a fake profile or blog under your name and start publishing crap in mere seconds. Once that happens, then you’ll just have to tell everyone it was the OTHER Jane Smith that wrote that blog post.
It’s amazing this type of theft or information smearing does not happen more often, or if it does, we just don’t hear much about it. What we’re teaching girl scouts to do online is better than what we do with ourselves and our insane concept of personal brands. The Girl Scouts protect themselves not only from psychopaths, but also angry customers. It’s a win-win situation for them. For the rest of us, we might just be waiting until our identity becomes stolen or mutilated.
And who knows, maybe I could be wrong. Those girl scouts might not make it because they don’t have a cool personal brand to sell themselves with.