On Egosurfing

By | December 28, 2012

zen1In this morning’s clutch of emails, I found a promotion for a new service called Vizify. This new service promises to research your various social media accounts and to create a personal webpage of sorts for you, pulling together information from various sources and presenting it in a coherent fashion. I thought that this sounded entertaining at least, and gave them my name and links to certain social media pages.

Well, that’s where the trouble started. Of the six sources of social media that Vizify wanted to search, I really had a presence only on two – Facebook and LinkedIn. I actually have a Twitter account, but I really have never used it. Frankly, I must admit, I’ve never really figured out how it worked well enough to make it particularly useful. I say this with no sense of misplaced pride – after all, it’s used quite effectively by everyone from the Pope to Lindsey Lohan to virtually every second grader in the country – it’s just that it’s never really met a need that I had. I’ve tried to keep my LinkedIn profile and participation reasonably up to date – according to them, my 344 connections link me to a total of 5,174,894 other professionals, which is a good many more people than I have ever actually met in all my life (and probably half a dozen past lives as well.) My Facebook participation has been pretty spotty; I’ve linked to a good many things, but haven’t been particularly active with photos, activities, or the like.

The net result, I’m afraid, is that when Vizify tried to put together something from these sources, it came across as wholly ridiculous. It’s clear why it wanted my education and work history – but then it tended to conflate the two. Why it picked the three or four most ridiculous pictures that might possibly be associated with me, I can’t possibly determine. By the time it was done, it had created an absolute monstrosity of a personal representation. In short, it was pretty much a disaster.

Being a good Pisces, of course, I immediately had to figure out why this was my fault. Actually, it’s pretty obvious – I have been insufficiently attentive to documenting the minutiae of my life in current social media. I just didn’t give them enough material to work with.

Now I have been pretty good about monitoring my online profile generally. I google myself regularly – the practice once known as “egosurfing”, now just considered to be basic self-protection – and I’m in pretty good shape there – lots of references to my publications and professional profiles, nothing particularly embarrassing (I suppose that’s the upside of not documenting my daily life online.) You have to go fifty or so listings down in Google before you come to a JD Eveland who isn’t actually me. Lots of people have had lots of problems with confusing identities, finding themselves mixed in with porn stars, divorce lawyers, gun dealers, and other assorted ne’er-do-wells. It helps to have a somewhat unusual name – although, as I’ve found out recently, there are a lot more Evelands out there than I’d realized (we actually have our own Facebook page). We all seem to be descended from the same guy – Johann Ifflandt, who decamped from Rhineland Germany about 1710 for New York and then New Jersey (hold the jokes, please.) So I’ve got a whole bunch of eighth and ninth cousins floating around, who seem to be pretty nice people. But none of them seem to be really in my line of work, which simplifies things.

So where is all this leading today? Well, it is interesting to contemplate how much of our lives we live in public today – and how little it seems to bother most of us. Some of us even develop the delusion that our extended thoughts in the blogosphere might be worth sharing. So Vizify represents an interesting approach to reintegrating our shattered personae spread across a range of sites. But, in my case at least, it doesn’t seem to be Ready for Prime Time. But if you try it for yourself, share with us all here what you think of it!

Tomorrow, I may share the story of the origin of the name of this blog. I think you’ll find it amusing and à propos.