Finding My Digital Identity

This blog posting came up in a recent discussion of Four Square and whether I am an influencer of some kind, so I thought I’d bring it back up into the light of day. It was originally posted April 21st, 2009.

I was born into the television generation. I cannot deny it. Much of my childhood was spent watching reruns of “MASH” and “Gilligan’s Island.” And I once asked Carol Burnett to air her show earlier in the evening because my mother wouldn’t let me stay up to watch it. (Ms. Burnett did write back to me, but did not reschedule her show.) These were the days of purely linear television. Do you remember? Even before VCRs with their flashing clocks that were so annoying to program.

And thus, I will never be a digital native. I cannot run for president of our digital nation. But yet, my identity is in flux. In 1985, while I was still watching shows like “LA Law,” I was also using instant messaging and e-mail via a proprietary system used within IBM, where I worked during summer vacations. At the end of that summer, I bought my first personal computer, an IBM PC with floppy drives and an amber (or green?) screen.

In 1993, I discovered e-mail, and my friends soon learned that to communicate with me effectively, they needed to follow suit. In 1994, I purchased a Motorola cell phone after running out of gas on the Merritt Parkway, hiking up a snowy hill and knocking on people’s doors asking to use their phone to call AAA. Can you even imagine that today! Cell phones would have ruined “Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

In 1994, I also worked with a stroke victim, helping him use a software program that enabled him to turn mouse movements into spoken words. I also wrote e-mails for him that traveled through an extremely clunky internet client. In 1995, my employer had to add an additional server to handle the e-mail volume produced by me and one of the firm’s partners.

In 2003, I joined “Friendster!” (Ugh) and sometime thereafter “MySpace,” where my niece let me become her friend – something that will not be repeated on Facebook now that she is a teenager.

At the beginning of 2006, I signed on to FaceBook as one of two people in my college class. The social network had 7.5 million users at the time. (Yes, you read that correctly; that is in contrast to today’s number – February 2010 – of 400 million users.) I urged my client – a leading business magazine – to utilize FaceBook, which was just starting to experiment with sponsored programs. In fact, I recommended that they seize what turned out to be a “do it or lose it” opportunity to create a branded FaceBook for MBA students.

To sum things up, I have deemed myself an “early settler and highly assimilated digital immigrant.” Perhaps I can become governor of Motorati Island.

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