Social Transparency: You Can Change Your Last Name But You Can’t Hide

I can’t remember the first time I heard someone say, Don’t write anything you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the paper, but I’m sure I was a kid and there was some delightful life lesson tied to it that, had I been on a sitcom, would have been accompanied by touching instrumental music. As I grew up that lesson moved from paper notes amongst girlfriends, to emails between friends and colleagues, and now is tied to status updates, tweets, blog comments, pins, and pretty much any form of social media one can think of. Unfortunately, this concept seems to have missed a generation or two.

#MansionPartyA party in Toronto attended by 1,500 to 2,000 teens was broken up in under an hour after attendees checked in, tweeted, vined (is that the right verb), and posted status updates using the hashtag #MansionParty

High schools around the country are incorporating software that crawls their students’ social media posts in an effort to combat cyberbulling and active shooter situations.

So why is it that people think they can hide on Social Media? Ignorance, narcissism; I wish I had the answer. A recent Facebook trend has people changing their profile name to exclude their last name. At first it was one or two people in my feed, but recently it seems to be happening a lot. I figured it had to do with anonymity but I didn’t know if I was at the tail end of some trendy cause where Bill Gates would donate a trillion dollars to save the Galapagos Islands if we did it either. So I reached out to my Facebook friends list to find out just what had them adopting this practice.

As I suspected, 100% of the answers I got back had to do with the former. Some were looking for a new job, some were hiding from an ex-spouse or friend, one I think was just following the trend but decided to answer with security as a follow up. So I took a few minutes of Google-Fu fun to see how hard it was to find my anonymous friends – and the answer was, quite simply, quite simple.

In the case of each of those polled, not one of them changed their Facebook URL, so it referenced their first and last name. Of those I polled, the married lot was also tied to their spouse—who also shared the same last name. A quick search using the users email address brought up a laundry list of tied in social accounts and myriad companies who wanted to help me track down said person.

So I guess the age-old saying rings true. Keep your photos and updates PG—there really is no hiding when it comes to social media. If someone really wants to find you, you’ve probably already made it pretty easy for them.

Chellsea enjoys digging into all things web, including search engine marketing, e-commerce, analytics, content and social. Look for Chellsea to dive into anything web marketing related here.

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