Through my life, I've picked an idea (or stolen, if anyone knows who had it first let me know) that we as individuals manage multiple worlds. The worlds I talk about are our relationships with people, and each world is different.
Let me explain a bit more. I have a relationship with my father, where I show different aspects of myself than in the relationship with my brothers. I have a relationship with the love of my life, and it is utterly different from what any other woman knows about me. I have a relationship with my previous co-corkers, which is different than the one with the current ones.
However, each relationship is true in a sense, and each relationship is a "world" where there are experiences we have shared, past discussions, joint symbols, phrases or special words that mean something in such world. I call them worlds because they have a full identity, they grow and have their own atmosphere and culture.
Now, add the internet to this concept. In the internet, where originally each site had its own login, you manage an identity as XXX from Yahoo, YYY in hotmail, ZZZ in gmail, to name a few. You have a profile maybe in hi5, aol, myspace or facebook. You may be part of different forums or communities and in each one of these identities that you manage, the things others know about you may vary widely or be completely different.
But if there is one thing that will happen in the future, is that someone will type your name into google and check out everything that is related to you. Your collaboration to an e-mail list, a support case with your name on it, your comments on a myspace profile or when you uploaded a recipe. Everything at one point in time will be linked and displayable within a few google queries.
So what is the big deal? Well, you started using the internet thinking no one was seeing what you were doing. However, it is tracked. So every site you visited (ahem..) every post you made, maybe every IM chat you had, might be found by someone else in the future. It might be your spouse, your next hirer, your current boss, your father in law. Increasingly, when people want to investigate you for whatever reason, they will look to google and build an idea of who you are from what shows up.
I came across the question in subject while reading "the world is flat" by Thomas Friedman (which by the way, is available for download in english off a spanish site in the first page of google search, but in a word document with no formatting). I believe the only way we will ever be capable of managing multiple identities, and not have them come back to haunt us, is by trying to maintain one identity - and being honest with it. You have to come to grips with who you are, even if you only show certain aspects of your personality to certain people, and who you where, and who you will be, as the segmented worlds in the internet start to converge.
At least for the moments I have dedicated some thought to this, I increasingly find I have to be honest with my own life and tastes and do it in a way where I can show it to anyone who would like to "research" who I am. As such, the anime lover, the pokerstars player, the facebook mafia wars player, have to live in harmony with the IT manager, the technology enthusiast, the avid reader, the idealist, the cat lover and the glutton. Only some may know me for my love of burgers and buffalo wings, but that is part of who I am.
In short, I believe that the best way to manage your multiple worlds is realizing how many different traits can live in one person at a given time, and to have the maturity to accept who you are and present it to the world.
Or, shut it up and never let it touch the web lol