In class on Tuesday, we talked about digital identities and what they consist of. To be completely honest, I had never given much thought to my digital identity prior to this class. I knew that a digital identity is formed based on what you share online, but I never really understood the extent of which it can influence who you are and how you are perceived by others. After doing a quick YouTube search, I found a short animation by Teaching and Learning Innovation that outlines how our digital identities are created and their importance.
When reading this week’s assignment, I was given the option to cyber sleuth one of my classmates or myself! Considering how I have very little experience with Googling people, I decided that I would start with myself! This may sound crazy, but I have never actually Googled myself before! I didn’t even realize that most people have done on a regular basis! I had always thought of it as being slightly narcissistic and creepy.. What I hadn’t realized was that searching oneself online can help us to understand where we stand in the eyes of others! With this in mind, I decided to dive right in and cyber sleuth myself!
What I Found:
When I typed my name into the Google search engine, several Twitter, LinkEd In, and Facebook pages popped up, none of which were actually mine. Realizing that I wasn’t the only Lauren Sauser out there, I added a location behind my name. The new search results consisted of the following:
Facebook: The very first result that popped up was my Facebook page. This made sense to me because it is the form of social media that I have had the longest and been the most active on. Here you can find my age, birthday, home town, where I went to high school, and where I currently live and go to University! You also will have access to a number of posts and photos that I have shared over the years! Seeing what all could be accessed so quickly, I contemplated making my Facebook Page private and that is something I will consider for the future!
Twitter: The next results that came up were both of my Twitter accounts! My professional Twitter account popped up first, which I was happy to see because it is such a new account and I don’t have a huge following yet! It pleases me to see that I can be easily found by anyone who may be looking for me professionally! My personal Twitter account also came up, but since my account is private, none of my tweets were shown unless you were already following me! I don’t share anything inappropriate on my personal twitter page, but the posts I make aren’t very relevant to my future career and are more for my friends! This reminded me of an article on Engadget by Nicole Lee! This article, which can be found here, addresses how having multiple online identities is a norm in today’s society. It doesn’t mean that you are trying to hide things from certain people, but it’s more about knowing your audience and what parts of your life they want/need to see.
WordPress Education Blog: The next result I was able to find was my education blog! (Yay!) I was really concerned that my blog would be lost in the many search results that would pop up because it is so new and not very well known! I was happy so see it show up as one of the top options and am hoping that it remains high in the search results so others can see what I share and interact with me!
In addition to these results that I was expecting to see, I was surprised to find articles about scholarships I had be awarded and provincial sports I had qualified for in high school! Some of these articles date back to 2013 so it was interesting to be reminded of things I had completely forgotten about!
Just when I thought my sleuthing was done, I began to think about how we had discussed Google algorithms in class and how they are used to only show you what Google “thinks” you want to see. I had no idea that this was even a thing so I decided to do a little more research into it. I found this great video Tidyrank‘s Youtube page with a brief explanation of how Google algorithms work!
So I then decided to follow the link provided in class to DuckDuckGo, which is a search engine that shows you all results without any algorithm. Although this tool seemed very interesting to me, the search results were the same as Google so I didn’t find anything new! Although I didn’t notice any different results, I will be keeping this search engine in my back pocket for future use!
I am happy to report that after doing some serious cyber sleuthing, I didn’t find anything negative that contributes to my digital identity. I grew up with a mother who was a teacher and always encouraged me to be cautious with what I shared online! I am a rather shy individual and prefer to live in the moment rather than sharing EVERYTHING online. With this in mind, I do think that my online identity would benefit from an increase in activity. I plan on building my professional online identity even further by adding to my Twitter page, website, and joining other forms of social media that I am unfamiliar with! If you have any recommendations, please leave them in the comments below!
So Why Should We Care About Our Digital Identities?
Now many of you may be thinking “so what?”. Why should I care what other people think about me? Why should I be selective in what I share online? These are fair questions that many people have, yet I feel that after this week’s discussions and readings, I have answers to provide!
Focusing specifically on teachers, it is important to ensure that we are creating positive online identities for so many reasons! Some of the main points I would like to highlight include:
- With an increase in technology, everyone can now be searched, found, and investigated in a matter of seconds.
- Digital identity searching is becoming a common tool for people hiring educators. Inappropriate or unprofessional posts, comments, or images can directly determine your future career opportunities.
- The things you post, share, like, and tag others in will NEVER truly disappear, even if you delete it! This is something most people don’t realize and it ends up hurting them in the future.
- Students will be creating their own digital identities and it’s important to lead by example! Before we can teach students about creating a positive digital identity, we must understand and have one of our own!
I would like to close by saying that we cannot always control what comes up when our name is searched online. Maybe someone else has the same name as you, maybe someone is using your name or image as a scam, the possibilities are endless. The one thing we can control is what we put out there. As described in a post by Paul Gordon Brown titled Digital Identity Isn’t A Separate Identity At All, our digital identity is part of our greater whole identity. While it may only seem like a small part of who we are, it directly impacts and is impacted by everything else in our lives.
I for one want to ensure that my digital identity truly represents who I am as a person and my goals as a future educator. Technology is only going to develop further from here and I am planning on doing everything I can to maintain a positive online presence and will do so by staying true to my personal beliefs, learning from others, and being open to new ideas!
This activity was an extremely eye-opening experience and I will definitely continue checking in on myself periodically through Google and other online searches! Now I hope you are all encouraged to check out and improve upon your own digital identities!