I have a very large digital footprint (my non-digital footprint is a size 11). There are things that if someone really wanted to find out information about me, it wouldn’t be that hard. If you type “Bob Borson” into Google, you’ll get over 30,000 returns – that’s a lot for someone who barely goes out at night and worries whether or not anyone would come to his funeral should he pass unexpectedly.
The main reason there are so many returns is because I have written a lot of posts here on this site as well as a handful on other sites. I was thinking about this because two things happened last week that got me thinking how the Internet is making it that much easier to leave behind those footprints and about what exactly we are all leaving behind.
So last week I was talking to a friend and I told a story (as I am prone to do) about an old childhood friend and neighbor of mine that I haven’t seen in 25 years. I got to wondering what he was up to these days so I went to the Internet and typed in his name …
Not one single return on this guy. How does that happen these days?
Did he die? Was he abducted by aliens? Did he become a mountain man? … Okay, if you knew the guy I was talking about that last one could have actually happened … but I doubt it. If you type in my name, not only do all these search returns show up from my site, but I show up in design interviews, meeting minutes from presentations before various city council and planning and zoning boards, me at the National AIA conference, etc. Of course, there’s also Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, my office’s website – the list can go on for a while but I think you get my point. Maybe it’s really not so amazing that I show in up 30,000 returns but that my friend shows up in ZERO returns. That has to take some skill and effort – it’s an amazing accomplishment.
On the same day, the other thing that got me thinking was after reading an “About Me” page on a website I was visiting. It was the website of a designer who I know has an office of one, yet their “About Me” page was written in the third person. I don’t know why that bothered me as much as it did. I read it and kept thinking the entire time “I know you are the one who wrote this, I know it’s you!” … hence the title of this post was born. If you read my About Me page, I wrote it as if I was talking to the reader – in fact, my opening sentence is “My name is Bob Borson and I am a licensed architect in Texas.”
Talking to people is an inherently personal thing – at least it is for me. Whenever I am writing, giving a presentation – whatever – I always talk in the first person. While that might make me sound a bit narcissistic, it puts some sort of personal perspective to whatever point I am trying to make – this is after all “me” talking and I think this platform requires a 1st person narrative to encourage participation from others. For the record, I should say that I make it a point to say “we” and “us” whenever talking to a client about their project. It’s never “I thought this was the best way to…”, it’s always “we thought this was the best way to…”. ['cause I'm a team player]
Is it a bad thing to have such a large digital footprint? Has my alien-abducted mountain man friend figured something out that I haven’t? [clearly he doesn't know how to avoid alien abductions like me so I'm not sure we should listen to him anyways]. Part of the reason I write this blog is to introduce some transparency to what some architects do. Another reason I have continued to write it is I like the idea that I am leaving something behind. It would be presumptuous to think that I will be remembered for my architecture – strictly looking at the percentages, very few of us will. This blog allows me to talk about the sort of architecture that I practice and how I think it should be practiced.
I wrote a post back in March 2011 titled “What are you carrying” and towards the end I mentioned that I had some interest in leaving some evidence behind for my daughter, that would allow her to see that her Dad was more than just her Dad. Maybe I shouldn’t care but I do … so as a result, I am going to be myself and talk in the first person. You never know who might be reading or when they might be reading.