Thursday, January 04, 2007

Throwaway identities?

dana boyd recently took note of a phenomena she claims is rampant among, at least, teenage girls - and is contrary to what we all believe that web site users want.

"Many teens are content (if not happy) to start over with most of their accounts in most places. Forgot your IM password? Sign up again. Forgot your email address? Create a new one. Forgot your login? Time for a change.

While adult bloggers talk about building an identity through extended blogging, i keep finding teens who got locked out of Xanga and responded by making another Xanga (or a Blogger or a LiveJournal). They have expressions scattered across numerous services with numerous handles. Some teens chew through IM handles like candy; their nicks are things like "o-so-funny" rather than the first name, last name standard that seems to pervade professional worlds. It's not seen as something to build an extensive identity around, but something to use to talk to friends in the moment.

Teens are not dreaming of portability (like so many adults i meet). They are happy to make new accounts on new sites; they enjoy building out profiles. (Part of this could be that they have a lot more time on their hands.) The idea of taking MySpace material to Facebook when they transition is completely foreign. They're going to a new site, they want to start over.

Could it be that the whole thrust of SSO, self-service password reset, federation, etc. - the areas we in IdM seem to spend all of our time - will have little meaning to the next generation of business users?

Or is it possible that these teens are way out in front of us on the use of multiple personas, multiple "digital identities" to express themselves? Perhaps - some time in the not so distant future - they'll be clamoring for a way that they can unite all of their "identities" - but only if they can guarantee that they alone can see the consolidated material. Food for thought, and for endless discussion while we wait to see what the users actually do!

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No, no it's not.
Oh, you crazy old folks. ;)

Of course teenage girls are doing it on purpose. They don't want people to find their multiple identities. They're trying on purpose to have a dozen of them spread all over where ever.

When you don't know who you are, it's fun to try out being different people. They not trying to build a brand, they're trying to pretend to be someone else to see if the person they're pretending to be is actually them.

They may not ever want to bring those identities back together, either. Just like you don't invite people from work to go to your family reuniion -- it's different worlds, and you often don't want them to collide.

In fact, I'd suggest more people should figure it out. I can't wait until people who are teenagers now (or were 10 years ago) try to run for public office and find everything they wrote as a teenager available for the public to see. What a nightmare!

(Says Dave's daughter who started on BBSes when she was 12, if you want to know my qualifications to speak on the subject. :D)
What do we tell our teenagers, especially girls? "Be safe online - don't give anyone your real identity." It's good advice, which maybe they're taking to heart.

And they don't have anything important enough to care about losing or having to re-create.

In the business world, life is entirely different. Perspectives change not only as society evolves, but also as each generation grows up.
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