Three recent commenters began their comments with the following greetings:
“Hey Kam, . . . ”
“Hi, Kam, . . . ”
“Thanks Kam . . . ”
Today’s comment challenge involves creating a post using comments, which is convenient for me because I now that I’ve been addressed as “Kam” three times, I probably ought to clear up the confusion that I’ve created. My username for WordPress, meebo, Twitter, del.icio.us, Diigo, StumbleUpon, and the assorted Ning networks to which I belong is “kamccollum”. However, my name isn’t “Kam”. KAM are my initials. My name is Kimberly, Kimberly A. McCollum.
It’s nice to be in a friendly community and to be on a first-name basis with people from around the world, but if I’m to be on a first-name basis, I’d really like it to be my first name. I’m not silly enough to be offended by being called the wrong name, especially since it’s my fault for only including my name in my very first post. (Today I amended my “about” page to include my real first name.) However, being called “Kam” made me feel like they were talking to somebody else and led me to think a little about the nature of identity online.
I see a wide variety of usernames among my students. Many of my students are college juniors and seniors who are still using online identities that they created in high school. I suggest to my students that should create a “professional persona” based on their name, but I still receive emails from “brattyangel”, “pinkprincess”, “ditzyblonde”, or “studman” (I made these up, but they are inspired by experience). Maybe I’m wrong, but I have a feeling that parents may take an email less seriously from “brattyangel” or “studman” than they would from “miss.thompson” or “teachersmith”.
I created kamcollum less than two years ago, when I decided it was time to stop using my maiden name as my email address. I would have preferred the email address “kimberly.mccollum”, but someone else beat me to it. I considered both kimccollum and kamccollum, but since I didn’t want people to think I was Kim C. Collum, I went with kamccollum, which I read K. A. McCollum. I’m comfortable with kamccollum, because I feel like I’m the same person online as off. I’ve stuck with kamccollum for consistency and to limit the number of usernames that I have to remember. I wonder though, how do others decide who they will be online?
Beyond usernames, what makes an online identity? Sue Waters had a post about the importance of developing an online identity a while back, but I think the username and avatar are only part of the picture. Once people can recognize us, what will think of us? It’s mainly our words, in blog posts, comments, etc. that make up our online presence. To me, the question then becomes, how much do we reveal about ourselves? I’ve revealed my name, my occupation and some of my professional interests. I’ve also revealed that I taught 8th grade in Baltimore for Teach for America, that I once one an award for teaching in a suburb, that I grew up in Maryland, that I’m married, and I’ve only been swimming in the sea once. That’s really not much to go on. I’m wondering, how much should we reveal about ourselves and when?