At one time a woman got married, shed her former name, and assumed a new identity. Now a married woman may choose to part with her maiden name, but she may not wish to shed her online identity which includes her professional accomplishments and public recognition.
Enter internet search and social media. Changing ones name used to be as simple as alerting the DMV, Social Security Administration and Passport Office. Later, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn needed to be informed. Still no problem.
But then there is Google. We live in a world that is made better by Google in innumerable ways. The day in 1999 when I discovered Google search was a mini milestone in my life. But +Google as opposed to +Google+ does not seem to have a mechanism for merging the two identities many women create by changing their last names. See photos below.
In the past this did not matter, not enough of our lives were chronicled online to worry about what happened when people “Googled” us and few of us had our names out in the public domain. But all this has changed and any accomplishment or indeed any information that is searchable by or about a woman who has changed her name, suddenly becomes untraceable. When a woman changes her name she begins again with a new identity, which for search purposes, is disconnected from her past.
For a growing number of women, this creates personal and professional difficulties as her past becomes untraceable. Women who changed their names and launched their careers before the advent of search are probably set. And women who marry and change their names very young will have fewer difficulties. But for young women just starting out, the generation of our daughters who may end up changing their names, perhaps late in their 20s or early 30s, there will be a struggle to merge two identities into one.
+The Atlantic summed up the breadth of the problem. “In the digital age, it’s not just the journalists and published authors out there who are considering their “bylines.” Social media and the ever-growing, searchable self have opened up public personalities for nearly everyone, particularly young professionals” They highlight a service a woman can hire to maintain her online “findability.”
And +Christine DeGraff on a humorous note in a great piece by+Eric Enge points out how integrated our real and online lives have become, “I am getting married in May and have come to the conclusion that I cannot change my name online because it turns out that I am more worried about what Google thinks than anyone else :D”
When Mashable writer Samantha Murphy Kelly told her own tale of two names, she asked Google for a comment. The response, while practical does not seem to truly address an issue that will only grow in numbers. “Just in the interest of people being able to find you and your work — and if it’s otherwise all the same to you — you should probably preserve your maiden name,” a Google spokesperson said.
And here on +Mediabistro +Meranda Adams journalist, gives a very clear and graphic sense from Google’s Webmaster Tool of what happens to a woman with a public career when she takes her husband’s name.
This is hardly an earth-shaking problem, but it does and will effect a very large number of women (and perhaps a few men) and as more of our world moves online, perhaps a new approach is needed.