vanity search vs privacy

I realise that there is this ongoing debate amongst people in my industry about the pros and cons of the social networking phenomenon. I find this quite interesting for personal reasons. There was a time earlier in my life that I was happy to publish just about anything on my blog. I always kept it relatively light-hearted and tried to not delve into too many saucy details. Back then I suppose it was less likely that anyone would even bother Googling me and even if they did the sites that I was registered for kept my online identity hidden behind closed doors. I suppose I didn’t mind having the occasional Google result to somehow validate that I was a netizen (ugh, did I just use that awful word?).

And then along came social networking…

And now everyone’s details are available and googling someone has actually become a frequently used verb. People are fired from their jobs because they are drinking on their MySpace photos. There is just no hiding.

Which led me to my little experiment.

I am attempting to manage my online reputation a little more efficiently and really crack down on what personal information and how much of it I will let out to you strangers of the world. Currently, you can find out pretty much anything about me and form some sort of opinion about my personality just by googling me. I find this slightly disturbing.

How does my little experiment begin?

I googled myself – using those tricky ” “‘s to make sure I get only me. It came up with about 267 results. The top one being Nerdgirl – which I am fine with since the content here is wholly owned by me. The rest of the results are a variety of sites and forums that I may have once posted on and several social networks.

Great, so what next?

I am going through each result one by one and attempting to either change my name, cancel my membership, edit the forum postings, etc… In addition, I am going to each site and checking privacy options.

Yes, but everything that you publish on the internet stays forever on the internet, doesn’t it?

Well, this is what the media and the world like to tell you. And while in some abstract way this is true, in other ways it isn’t. If a bear shits in the woods and cleans it up will anyone know he shat there? Once these sites are changed and when the google bots eventually get out to said site, it should reindex the new page with the changed content. Therefore, I can change history in a sense. This content might exist somewhere out there in cyberspace, but at some point it is no longer accurate and should be shoved out of search results.

So – that is the experiment. I will check back in 30 days and see how the result sets vary from what they are today.

Anyone have any thoughts on this?