I’m an incredibly easy person to find on the internet. My name is relatively unique thanks to my Scottish last name, which has 23 different official spellings, and that my mom decided on Erica (after the infamous Erica Kane on All My Children), not Katie, Lindsey, or Megan like many of my peers.
Google my name and bam, there’s my personal portfolio as the first result. There’s my time as a leader and volunteer at my alma mater’s gay-straight alliance in the second one. There’s even a result tucked in there of my eight years as a 4-Her.
It’s not that much of a skip and a jump to find my screen name and start researching my hobbies. But what about those hobbies and what about if potential employers find out or god forbid, my Grandma.
Well, Grandma already knows. I’m pretty notoriously not that secretive and pretty shameless.
(Plus, Grandma is one hip grandma, let me tell you; she had the internet before I could even convince my parents that we needed a computer so I could type up my own reports on the life and times of octopi instead of my mom using her electric typewriter.)
Employers can be another story. Fox News is probably never going to hire me, but that doesn’t hurt my feelings. I pretty much gave up on my dreams of being President of the United States after the 2004 election. I’m probably never going to be a CEO, unless I open my own company and I’ll always hire me.
I’m lucky to live in Seattle where discrimination based on sexual orientation is illegal. My hobbies, while certainly could be the object of some salacious office gossip, are not illegal nor do they interfere with how I perform my job. They just make the monotonous “how was your weekend?” question more interesting.
Recently, a friend of mine and I had a conversation about putting our sexual orientations in our public profiles on Facebook, hoping that certain extended family members would read them, and eliminating the need for some possibly awkward exchanges. For myself, my family tends to know everything, if not because of my ultra-honest answers to their questions, but because of family gossip.
An office kind of works the same way. A few friends get the full details and a few other people get vague ideas and then everyone knows or has suspicions. Suspicions can be fun to mess with people’s head.
Several months ago, I was in the office kitchen area and a co-worker, who’d barely said two words to me outside of work-related conversations, informed me that he’d heard I went out at night during the week and wanted to know where I went. While I never answered his question in a way that satisfied him, I did have the glory of looking at the confusing on his face when I told him that no, I don’t drink when I go out. Because I’m sure he was having pictures of me in his head drunk out of my mind, stripping down to my bra, and badly singing the greatest hits of 1997. He was pretty ashamed to find out that this lush can count the numbers of times I’ve been drunk on two hands.
Eventually, office gossip goes away. They hire a new person and want to know every single detail about that person instead of you. Everyone now thinks its normal that I have action figures of Batwoman, She-Hulk, Vala Mal Doran, and Jayne Cobb on my desk. Oh, that’s just Erica; she’s a little weird.
I always figure that if my hobbies are found out and leave a bad impression than perhaps that’s not where I want to be working anyway. I’m not very hidden online, and I’m not very hidden in real life either. It doesn’t work for everyone, but it does for me.
Besides, just because I work in e-commerce doesn’t guarantee that my current or future employers bother to google me.