How important is our identity online? Is it just another aspect of our "real life" identity, and equally important?

That's something I had to consider when Saint sent me the question for this week's Band of Bloggers entry (and many thanks to Saint for choosing me! Demon's a hard act to follow, though)

Here's the question:

"Imagine if you will, a competing video game journalism organization contacted you and asked you to come work for them. Initially, your compensation would be meager - $10 per blog with incentives and bonuses based on the success of the blog (this is actually a pretty accurate salary for free lance bloggers). The only catch is, you have to leave behind "Hist"; sever all of your ties with Game Informer Online and the community AND get rid of your name.

What do you do?"

My initial reaction was "hell yes I take it!" To actually get some compensation for doing something I love to do? Sometimes I get lazy blogging and that's when you don't hear from me for a while. However, if it was a paid position, even if it was meager at first, that would probably motivate me to keep them coming.

But then I stopped and thought for a minute.

To get rid of this entire identity? (The question isn't totally clear on whether it would just be at Game Informer or if I would have to give up "hist" completely, so I'm going to assume the latter for purposes of this blog)

That's an even tougher question. I've been "hist" my entire online life, with only the rare exception. (For those who follow me on Twitter, I use "histerin" when I either need a longer username or if it's an arena where "hist" is most likely taken or too general). What would it be worth to give up something like that?

Our identities are the most important things in the world to most of us, or should be, anyway. Material things can be re-acquired, but when somebody actually steals your identity, whether it's online or offline (through credit card fraud and things like that), the sense of violation is palpable. I've had friends who have gone through each kind, and while the specifics of that violated feeling are different, as are the outcomes, they're both stealing a piece of who you are.

An online identity is more about reputation than anything else. If somebody impersonates you and does things that you would never do, that will harm what people think of you. Since people online don't actually know you, only what you have chosen to show them, this violation can be extremely painful. You've come down in the eyes of peers and others that you respect. Hopefully that sense of trust and respect can be regained.

So, to give that up? Especially for compensation that may never grow much higher than $10/blog plus bonuses?

That's a much harder decision.

The other consideration is giving up what I get here. I've made friends on this site, and while I could still interact with them, it wouldn't be here. I like the site, its contributors, and the other people that I interact with on it. It would be very tough to throw that all away.

Outside of Game Informer, I've established myself in numerous other venues as "hist," and have become a part of those groups as well. To lose the ability to "be" hist would poke a hole in who I am online. Yes, you can compensate for it, change your name and make sure everybody knows that you've changed it. Make it so they follow you to where you are now.

But not everybody will get the message, or they'll get lazy and lose track of you that, that vital interactive link severed.

So what is your online identity worth? Especially when you can't actually monetize it yourself?

It's worth a great deal. It's a piece of me, as I'm sure it's a piece of each and every one of you as well.

Yes, i could pick it up and move on if it came down to that. But it would be hard. It's happened before; it will happen again. Though usually that's because of *your* choice and not due to outside factors. And you usually keep the "brand" when you do go someplace else.

So with that being said, would I take up Saint's mythical job offer?

I don't think so. I think the cost of taking that kind of job would be too high. I could accept not *blogging* on GIO anymore, but I couldn't accept cutting all ties. I couldn't accept denying my online identity, changing it and twisting it until it's unrecognizable.

To do that would require a job offer that would actually support me, something like Dan Amrich did when he went to Activision (not that I'm comparing myself to him, of course).

I do blogging for fun and to be part of the community, to interact with the people I like and respect on here.

If somebody's willing to make blogging my full-time job, then I would re-think everything I said above and try to minimize the damage. I would make sure people know where I'm going so they can follow me or not. And I can make sure they know why.

A new full-time job would be life-changing in itself, so it would be worth changing my online life as well.

But to just get paid a little bit for something I enjoy doing anyway?

Nothing like that will ever take me away from GIO.

Many thanks to Saint for choosing to include me in this! It was great and thought-provoking as well.

Note: (This would have been posted over the weekend, but the site ate what I started on Saturday. One day, I will learn).