Friday, January 8, 2010

Who Are YOu Anyway?

I got to thinking today about identity. How should I present myself online, and what advice should I offer to students? Several years ago, when I was just starting up with Web 2.0 environments such as wikis, blogs, and twitter, I went to a workshop and was told that you should not use pseudonyms for such environments if your purpose is to communicate professionally. Having your name out there in cyberspace, connected to your job, areas of expertise, and interests is a good thing, said the presenter. I guess there is a little irony here, but I do not remember who it was that said this. I do think it is good advice though! I really like my last name, which is my 3rd, and in some ways my favorite. I love my maiden name, Fitzgerald, but it is long and not subject to puns. My 2nd last name was Herring, and though I did have some fun with fishy puns, it is my least liked name. Then I became a Bell and suddenly the world of puns and allusions opened up for me. My door mat says "Ring My Bell." and my answering machine messages say "Hello, You just rang the Bells." Since my first two initials are M.A., for Mary Ann, I have been known as Ma Bell for years. I even think that calling myself mabell has helped people remember me and my blog/wiki etc. when we meet face to face.

The real reason I am thinking about identity today is not because of my own choices, though. It is because of identity-related peeves I want to share.
  • This morning I got a voice message that seemed to be from a business or service. The speaker very clearly stated her phone number, but her delivery of her name and the name of the company was unintelligible. I played through the message a couple of times. I would have disregarded it completely, but she mentioned Texas Library Association conference and since we have a booth there, I wanted to be sure I wasn't missing something important related to that. It turned out to be from an "alternative" housing booking agent and NOT something I was about to use. But because of the poor message, I would not have been inclined to do business with the company regardless of purpose. I resent when voice message are unclear and take excessive time to decipher.
  • Lousy phone message are certainly not limited to business/sales/promotions. Many more come from job applicants, colleagues, students and prospective students. Anyone who is calling about a professional matter should speak clearly and slowly and repeat contact information more than once. This seems so obvious that it should not have to be pointed out, but I suspect every person who works in an administrative or helping position can attest to how often people seem fail to present themselves well via phone.
  • Since I am venting, I am also going to go into the choice of email names for professional use. Many, many years ago, I got a hotmail address. I wanted it for personal use, and even then I wanted to use my own name. I tried entering "mbell," but was prompted to add more characters. So I got the bright idea to just stick some X's on the end for space fillers. Thus my name went out to the world as: mbellXXX DUH!!! By the next day I had a plethora of pornographic messages. Obviously I had not made a good professional choice, unless you count the world's oldest profession. Nowadays, I see students with cutesy names and cringe a little. ittybittybooboo may be fun for friends and families, but I really think that when you present yourself professionally, you should use a more professional moniker. I also think that when you describe yourself in terms of a non-professional role, you diminish your effectiveness. Thus does not confer much respect. Furthermore, I am going to stick out my neck and say that religious or patriotic labels make me cringe a little as well. does not resonate with me, nor does
  • Here's the thing. It is easy to acquire and use several email accounts. If you want to communicate with like minded people with an email name that broadcasts your beliefs, do so and hooray for the 1st Amendment. If you want a cute and humorous name for family and friends, go for it. I do that also with my bell-puns. Just have an account with an appropriate name for your grown-up business and professional communication.
    End of vent. I feel much better now. Oh and my most-used email is:

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