Tom Whitby had an interesting idea: create a Twitter account for a school administrator that was pre-loaded with 50 people to follow.


Beth Still liked the idea and blogged about it. I have some hesitancy, however, about the concept, despite Tom and Beth’s good intentions and despite my inclinations to help administrators by making this social media stuff easy for them [and, yes, I’m now officially changing my mind about item #5 in the hyperlinked post]. Here’s the comment that I left on Beth’s blog:

Although I empathize with the sentiment behind this idea, I confess I have some hesitancy about it. Unlike being handing an iPod loaded with podcasts, which involves no identity infringement, I think most folks would prefer to handle their own online identities. Choice of whether or not to join an online service – or even specific online account usernames and/or Twitter IDs – is critical, I believe, for online identity formation (e.g., I wish I had a common username across services instead of being mcleod in some places, scottmcleod in others, and something else in yet others; I choose to use some online services but not others). What you choose for others may not necessarily be how they’d like to be represented. Also, third parties will begin treating those individuals’ online identities as authentic and representative, despite the fact that you, not they, created them. Your representation may or may not be accurate or fair to the person who has an online identity that supposedly represents her but instead represents your perceptions of her. It’s already tough enough trying to get a handle on the variety of ways in which we can be represented online without our permission. Despite the extremely good intentions here, I’m not sure I’d agree that this is a good thing to do.

The essential question here is whether it’s okay to create an online service account in someone else’s name, regardless of how good your intentions are. Beth says that she would let her administrator fill in his own profile. But she already would have made the account…

If you have thoughts on this, please leave them over at Beth’s post. It should be a good conversation!