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Choose Your Twitter ID Wisely

I recently changed my main twitter ID.

I used to be known as @magitam, and now I’m known, as @farhan. I got tired of having to introduce myself as both myself, and my twitter alter ego.

It all started, back at the first ever twestival in London.  If I remember correctly, I got asked by @matthagger how my twitter ID of @magitam related to my name?

It didn’t..

Magitam was a legacy reference to something I’d come up with when creating my “yahoo” account, back somewhere around 2001, or perhaps it was before that, when I first discovered IRC in 1997.  Either way it was my “handle”.  It had been something I’d been using to identify myself, anonymously when I first started to go online.  This is long before facebook, and myspace, and twitter.  This is going back to the days before gmail, when you might have had AOL as your main email account, and yahoo and hotmail were just getting started.  Days when you would hang out in IRC, because that’s where all the cool people online would be.. and this is back in those days when you would use “newsgroups”, to find stuff out, instead of RSS feeds from blogs, and news sites ;)

Back then I wanted my identity to be pseudo anonymous.  There weren’t enough people on the internet to ever think that I would ever be meeting in real life the people I’m having conversations with.  It just wasn’t something that you ever thought would happen.

Besides, you would put people through a vetting process, of getting to know them, of engaging and interacting with them virtually, and given enough time, you would start to have a familiarity with someone, you would know them, and be able to distinguish their personalities, and respective identities, as being synonymous with these anonymous tags, or handles that everyone used.

It wasn’t an internet that was meant to be real life social, or allow you to actually meet real people, it was an internet that was a refuge for the people who felt alienated and alone, or wanted to find friends with similar thinking to their own, or with common interests, who they could turn to, knowing that these were a crowd you could trust, and say and share pretty much anything, and there would be no serious repercussions.  It was a store of information, an online library, with talking in the corridors, and disused corners.  In some ways, it was a place where people would practice being themselves, with no pretense, and no barriers to being themselves, unless they chose to have them.  The worst repercussion could be that you’d be ostracised or alienated by your community, but then you would always be able to find a new group of people to connect with online.

Fast forward to 2008, and the Internet is a very different place. Now it’s a world of greater transparency, and visibility.  We now use the internet to stay connected with people we meet whilst travelling the globe.  We manage to make friends, all around the world, and now as we all travel globally, we actually try to meet the real people we made friends with online.

This is a very different world.  This is a very different internet..

Whilst I wasn’t consciously thinking about it I had actually assumed and brought forward the traits from the old internet with me to the world of Social Media.  It was cool.. My “identity” in this online world was “MagiTam” – and as I met more people, IRL (in real life), I started to build this brand and identity of MagiTam.  It was my online twitter persona, it was how people knew me.  It was all about creating this brand, this identity, associated with this label, or term, of MagiTam.  I was creating my own international brand, just like Nike, only with a team of 1 at the helm, and my logo was my profile photo of me.

Well, it finally dawned on me, that perhaps my “identity” of MagiTam just complicates things.  Having to introduce myself as @magitam and Farhan, was just double effort.  I didn’t really care to “hide” the person that I am.. And to be fair, I have my full name on my profile on Twitter, so it wasn’t like I was trying to hide my personal identity.

Then, it just clicked that perhaps I should see if I can get hold of @farhan.. and lo and behold, I asked Farhan Mannan, if he would mind terribly if I could have the twitter name of @farhan, since it was an integral part of my work, and if he wouldn’t mind terribly I’d like to be able to brand myself with that name..  Well, he kindly agreed, and a few hours later, I had set up a new account with the twitter ID of @farhan ;)  Thanks @farhanmannan!

Once I’d secured this identity (I already had @farhanrehman, in a seperate account), I realised that I wasn’t quite sure when or how to switch the name across, and if I should just switch it, or start tweeting from the new account, and re-start my twitter life. 

I happened to read recently about how @jimconnolly had just re-set his twitter account having inadvertently become a bit of a celebrity in the twitterverse, and mistakenly found himself following many internet marketers that were all asking him to tweet their websites, and share their products, or offerings.  Eventually, out of desperation, he decided to re-start, and just follow people who were clients, or actual friends.

I was going through one of these moments of desperation myself recently, where because I’ve reached a 2k limit on twitter, I can’t follow anymore people, until more than 2k people follow me back.. Which is quite annoying.. But my solution around it right now, is that I go to Twitter Karma and just unfollow people, based on who isn’t following me back.  Some people like @amanda or @paulwalsh I stay following, regardless of whether they follow back or not.  They appear to be staples of the london tech community, and so worth keeping an ear out for.  But others, who I don’t really know or recognise too well, and generally are based some place outside of the UK/London, are people who I start to unfollow, just so that I can start to follow more people who I’ve actually connected with in person, in some way shape or form.. 

The thing is, these are “real” connections, with real people, around conversations that I would actually have in person with them, if I were in the same locality.  In fact, thanks to tools like twitter, it actually makes it ever more likely that I will be able to actually meet more of these people that I engage and interact with on Social Networking platforms such as Twitter or Facebook.

With this much transparency, and this level of real world visibility, to the point that I can sometimes tell where people are, based on their tweets, and reference to events happening in and around London, I actually am looking for ever more opportunities to connect with people in person.  Especially people who I’ve spoken with, or exchanged messages with on platforms like Twitter, and Facebook.

This means that unlike Improbulus, who consciously chooses to maintain a certain level of anonymity and privacy, with regards to her real identity, I’m actually interested in being as open, visible and transparent as I can be.  Perhaps too much so, but given that my identity online is intrinsically woven into the persona of me, even if someone wanted to steal or imitate me, it wouldn’t last very long, at least I don’t think it would be.  But I guess, I just don’t go there. 

Perhaps I believe a little too much in the innate goodness of people, but one thing that I’ve found, especially more so since using twitter, is that people want to talk with people.  They want to interact with the person.  They don’t really want to speak to an “identity” without knowing the person behind it.  Those days of virtual identities, and anonymity online are starting to be of a bygone era. Now we look at ever more increasingly effective ways of using Social Media to amplify our voices, and throw our messages out into an ether, that connects it to the right people at the right time, and brings us back, so much of what we need, when we need it.

With this current day internet, and world of Social Media, you want your name on twitter to be representative of you the person.  Some people might be happier being a brand, or a product, but I think unless you happen to embody that brand or that company, you’ll probably find it easier to just be yourself.  Think of a name that you want to be known as, in real life, when you meet with someone, who you might already know really well on twitter.  Will you have to introduce yourself as something other than your twitter ID?  Do you want to or care about that?

I guess for me, especially being a Social Media Consultant, I’m often advising people and learning myself about what works.. My name works best for me.  I’m happy to be known as Farhan in real life, and now that I’m also known as @farhan on twitter, I don’t have to worry about trying to explain who I am.  Even better, when I meet people who follow me, instead of them wondering what my name is, if they recognise me from twitter, my twitter id will be enough for them to remember who I am.

I sometimes find it a challenge, when you meet someone who doesn’t have their actual name in their twitter id, to remember or figure out who they are.. Like the girl with a one track mind (@girlonetrack).  Fortunately, I’ve seen her at events enough times, that I finally figured out her name as Zoe Margolis (though sneaking a peek at her twitter profile kinda helped ;)

I guess it’s always going to be cool to have a “label” or a “cool” twitter handle, when you’re using it amongst your friends, and people who know you, but then when joe bloggs starts using it, then it may or may not be as useful, or helpful to still have the same cool, “in” joke of a nick name.

I guess in some respects, it’s not really any different to having a nickname, versus your real name.  In my case, because I use twitter with people who I would want to do business with, as well as friends, and generally just want to be remembered, I choose to now use my actual name as my twitter identity.  At least now when people come upto me and ask me if I am my twitter ID, the answer will be a resounding yes, without having to then say “and also, my real name is…” ;)  Now I just have to sort out new Moo Cards, for the new Twitter handle…

Next I have to figure out what to use for my custom flickr url, since the magitam reference doesn’t apply anymore :(  Suggestions welcome below ;)

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