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I worked before as a freelancer writer where I would review some tech products (phones, websites, online services... etc) and post them on YouTube (channels which I do not control), and both my voice and picture were appearing in these videos.

Now that I graduated from my Masters program, I want to pursue my PhD and teach in the university. I would like to start publishing some papers as well in my field.

However, my past online identity is haunting me; Anyone can search my name and instead of finding my Google Scholar page as the first result, they would see me talking about the features of iPhone 7 in a YouTube video, and it is embarrassing for me. Some political articles that I published online are also embarrassing for me as I enter the academic world.

Do most people in academia suffer from the same thing? How can one get rid of this past online identity before entering the professional academic life? And how can I be sure no one uses parts of this old identity against me in the future?

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    @GoodDeeds Thanks but no, the "right to be forgotten" thing does not apply to me since the content I produced is so viral and famous, and removing Google queries won't help me (I published huge content on YouTube and many other platforms). And I am not in the EU,
    – Madno
    Mar 2, 2021 at 15:37
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    The top-voted answer on the related question is very applicable here, though. Even if you do not fall under the "right to be forgotten" thing, a valid strategy is to generate an overload of positive search results that will drown out the ones you do not want others to see. Over time, your research publication will perform this role, but you can find four ways to start generating positive results rightaway in this answer: academia.stackexchange.com/a/117289/116675
    – user116675
    Mar 2, 2021 at 16:32
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    Why would anyone care about you reviewing an old iPhone? The political articles, I can see, if they had harmful or offensive content. Mar 2, 2021 at 16:33
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    @Madno "I reviewed iPhones on YouTube" and "I explained how Jews control the media on YouTube" are very different. Mar 2, 2021 at 18:42

2 Answers 2

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Sadly, in the modern world, you are probably stuck with what you have posted in the past. Some people are even stuck with lies told about them online and it affects various aspects of their lives as well.

Sorry that it isn't a solution to go back ten years or so and publish the stuff you might not want associated with you in future under a pseudonym. But for young folks with online personas, consider this early on. History made it work for me, since my real persona was established and I could decide, when the time came, to only interact online under pseudonyms. Hence "Buffy".

But, there is no requirement that you publish academic papers under your True Name. You can establish a pseudonym and publish all of your academic work under that name instead. You just want to be consistent, and it is useful to use a somewhat uncommon name. Then, searches on your "academic name" will only turn up your academic work.

See, for example, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pseudonyms

It isn't a perfect solution, of course, if someone finds the relationship and decides to "out" you.

And, for purposes of changing jobs and such, your real name will get associated with your academic name. But that is in a situation under which you have some control and usually the opportunity to explain to individuals that you now disavow the sins of your youth.

But the world is now very "sticky". Hard to avoid it.

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  • Yeah. And there are several ex-Olympian athletes now in academia who publish under an unfamiliar name so their research can stand for its own merits, not take a lift from their past fame - or have their days interrupted by people who just wanna meet a famous person . . .
    – Trunk
    Mar 3, 2021 at 13:03
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Firstly look into the possibility of changing your YouTube name. If this is not possible, see if you can create a new YT account and move the videos into this.

Whatever about YouTube, your academic name is better being different to your commonly used name: we are all entitled to a life away from our work and from any "reputation" that follows from this. How best to select your academic name depends on:

  • The country you are in

  • The commonness of your first name, middle name(s) and surname

  • Naming conventions in your country

So, for example, if your YouTube name is Pablo Garcia, your middle name is Enrique and your mother's name is Sota you might publish under the name P.E. Garcia Sota. Likewise if you live in Netherlands and your YouTube name is Johan Van Dijk, you might, if your middle name is Willem, publish under J.W.V. Dyck as the latter form is often used in English publications. English native-speakers might use a number of first name initials and maybe omit the usual one if it is unusual enough to be searchable. Irish people have the legal option of using the Gaelic version of their name. Doubtless there are other possibilities in other countries, there may even be regional naming conventions in parts of France and Germany.

Look into the options in your own country and then do some trial searches on the main engines. Be careful to avoid a name that already has an existing big persona attached to it, especially in academia, as Google searches will associate you with them. Use Google Scholar to help with this.

Discuss your final selections with those close to you.

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  • This ignores the fact that I am well-known by my voice and picture, and it's just not about YouTube. I made many videos where millions of people saw me by my picture and voice for many continous years, so search engines are not a factor here.
    – Madno
    Mar 2, 2021 at 18:03
  • Search engines are a factor here - be under no illusion about that. All recruitment consultants and all modern HR managers use them in both sourcing candidates and reviewing their past. You must give yourself a chance to be interviewed for jobs of interest to you. I didn't realize that your were showing your face on YT. So now all you can do is try to break the binding between your past online persona and what you are today. I would advise using a different name in publications to that used online. If your cover is blown, you can fairly say you just wanted a life away from your work.
    – Trunk
    Mar 2, 2021 at 19:37
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    @Madno Most of the people who will call the shots for your career in academia are old. How well known do you think you are in the 55-65 year old demographic?
    – user133933
    Mar 2, 2021 at 19:42
  • BTW, Academic life is not so bad that it will reject all participation from those without the orthodox profile. There's plenty of ex-revolutionaries in universities. Obama's buddy, Bill Ayers (of U o Chicago) was in the Weathermen for Chrissakes. Whatever views you may have had, I doubt if they were too extreme. And I hope we aren't hearing from you now the undertones of someone who just aspires to the comforts and light-touch management of a university job rather than someone anxious to make a good contribution to quality education there. Giving inside knowledge is not what SE Academia does.
    – Trunk
    Mar 3, 2021 at 12:58

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