I have, over the last one year, had the opportunity to see the impact of online persona over the actual persona. Recently, a few of my friends launched Claps and Boos, which is based on the desire of people to be socially networked online and the other big interest of most Tamizh makkal/Desis - movies. As a part of doing some spadework, I realized how much people let others know of themselves online.
I have over the last one year, hoped to maintain some form of online anonymity. I make sure my updates on Facebook is seen only by people whom I know and trust, deleted my Orkut account and of course, culled out most of the personal references from my blog as well. While people have called me anything from paranoid to being a jerk to keep most of my facebook friends on the other side of the wall (pun intended), I can only say that there is some method to the madness.
Family - Previously when I was in high school, college, there was an easier way to keep family and friends apart - but now it is beginning to get difficult. When a friend puts one number risqué comment on my wall/blog, I'm quite at a dilemma as to what to do. I hate to delete people's posts/comments as I do not believe in censorship - but, I can only imagine my mom doing a double take seeing some of the stuff that my friends seem to say/write. I have not solved this one just as yet as the only other way is to put my family on the other side of the wall - which will have serious repercussions which I do not desire. Right now, I think my family is becoming sane enough to realize what to see and what not to see. :) And recently, when Orkut Tamizh Cinema Community was hacked by a moron and was held to ransom, I realized how open/vulnerable personal information is when some idiot tries to hack you over reasons that are so stupid, that it is not worth risking your family's online information - especially when you have a substantially younger sister. Nothing is worth seeing your family pulled into the public over some stupid (non-)reasons
Work - Recently, when my company was trying to hire someone, my manager walked up to me and asked me to do some Facebook/LinkedIn research on a potential candidate he is vetting. even though I knew since 2006 that people were looking into these stuff, being asked to do that and finding some information that was really not pleasant to report to my manager has created a permanent scar on me to ever attempt a completely transparent online profile of any sort - especially Facebook which is supposed to be a completely personal application. I do maintain that I try to have a different set of actions at work - just because of the industry we work for, I cannot be as opinionated as I'm in my personal life. So, that has a great deal in this desire to be anonymous.
Friends - This is one of the prime reasons, though its been listed third; I have over the course of last few years, gotten to know some fantastic people online - with Blogeswari, Hawkeye and MeThinks topping the list, who, I would have never known if not for the internet. In fact, internet has also been responsible for me knowing RealNirmal better from the image I had of him from my college days - he had a particular nickname which was not easy to like, you see! :) But for the past couple of years, I have been waging a battle against many of my friends' perceptions of what certain comments/blog-posts/wall posts mean. While I have completely avowed my lack of trust/interest over finding any kind of relationship online, people seem to want to give their own spin to what I say, the pictures I post etc. This is fine when it happens to be tongue in cheek comments from people I know well, but sometimes some idiots online do not know the level of liberty to take and barge in on a completely personal thread with a friend. Decidedly random acts of adding people, liking something online are given twists to bizzare, that I have stopped accepting any friend requests from people I do not know!
To summarize, I want to see whether I can doctor/cultivate my online image. I have already seen some success as some of the folks who read my blog think I'm an extreme right wing guy, while people who talk to me in person are of the decided opinion that I'm quite on the other side of the world. So far so good, lets see!