THE BLOG

Handing Over the Key to Your Online Life

14/04/2014 12:25 BST | Updated 12/06/2014 10:59 BST

Last night I met a rather nice guy, and we exchanged numbers.

As he handed me his phone, giving me the opportunity to determine what name was saved to it, I delayed slightly.

Was I really willing to hand over the power of my surname?

We live in an age, where two versions of ourselves exist. The real life version, and an online avatar. Not the kind of avatar you could create on Sims, but an online persona developed over the years, and ultimately constructed by Google.

Some aspects of our online identity remain under our control - the version that we present over Facebook and social networking. Carefully chosen, flattering profile photographs. Statuses, which tell the world just how great our lives are, and check us in at the most glamorous and sought after locations.

Other aspects are out of our hands. The most popular mentions of our names will always rise to the top of search engines, no matter how true or relevant they may be.

As a singleton in 2014, Facebook is a key social hurdle to navigate in the early stages of a relationship.

Do you really want someone you're getting to know to have access to details of the last ten years of your life? Should you see photos of his parents, friends and siblings before you actually meet them? Or worse, see photos of past relationships, and over-analyse the way he communicates with his exes?

Wouldn't you prefer to learn things about him when he decides to tell you, rather than making assumptions from snippets of information shared on social media?

For me, one of the most exciting parts of dating is gradually building up your own picture of a person. A bit like piecing together a jigsaw.

As you get older, it's not often that you meet new people, and spend time one-on-one getting to know all about them. And the beauty of those situations, is that you can decide which snippets of your life to share, and when.

You hand a stranger pieces of your personality and history, and watch as they build a snapshot of your life, right here, right now. You decide exactly who you are today. And in turn, he hands you pieces of his own jigsaw, choosing which parts of his life he'd like to share, and which parts he'd like to hold back. What's important, and what's no longer relevant.

Everybody changes. But the internet never forgets!

I am not the same girl I was when I first joined Facebook in 2005. Or the girl who won a caption competition at age 11. And yet there are versions of that girl still available on the internet.

And whilst I can choose who becomes my Facebook friend, and who sees the versions of the myself that I have crafted online for the past nine years, I can't control who enters my name into Google.

No, I haven't robbed any banks, or defrauded any pensioners, but there are parts of my life detailed online, which I'd prefer to tell someone about in person.

One of the reasons dating websites allow you to choose usernames, is to maintain some anonymity. To enable you to choose what information a date knows about you before meeting up, and which parts you save for a later conversation. And whilst the safety conscious dater in me appreciates being able to double-check someone is who he says he is, with a quick LinkedIn or Facebook search, beyond that I think you're cheating yourself out of fun.

Everyone enjoys a mystery once in a while.

So if a stranger hands you the key to his online life - in the form of his full name - think twice before you use it.

Yes, Google may be able to tell you where he works, what he did at university, and how he spends his free time ... but wouldn't you prefer to hear about those things direct from him?