This week, we were tasked with writing five lessons we learned from five different articles we read about digital identity. I chose to look at “How to See What the Internet Knows About You (And How to Stop It)” by Tim Herrera, “Digital Identities: Six Key Selves of Networked Publics” by Bonnie Stewart, “Controlling Your Public Appearance” by Danah Boyd, “Personal Branding in the Age of Google” by Seth Godin, and “Professors, Start Your Blogs” by Dan Cohen. Here are the five lessons I took away from them:
The Internet Knows More About You Than You Think It Does
This one may seem to be somewhat obvious, but I didn’t realize how incredibly unaware I was of the extent the internet knew about me until I read Herrera’s piece. In it, he provides links to sites such as “Click” and “Webkay” that are able to display basic info about a user’s online activity such as location, IP address, social media logins, and even photo metadata. This insight proves why internet presence is so important to self-monitor: anyone can find your data, and you might not even know they’re doing it.
Digital Identities Are A Sum Of The Selves
You have a choice in how you present and act online, and this can translate into your online persona. Stewart’s article argues that each person exhibits six selves within their digital identity: the Performative Self, the Articulated Self, the Participatory Self, the Asynchronous Self, the PolySocial Self, and the Branded Self. Each self acts in a different way online, and you may present one or all of them; the important part, however, is that each of these selves add up to your one, individual digital identity.
Be Proud Of Your Digital Identity
Or in other words, make your digital identity something you can be proud of. Boyd’s article points out that an individual’s online persona not only can have real-world consequences, but can be much more easily-accessible than most of us realize. Ever find yourself show up in the Google search results after posting a comment on a blog? It can happen. That MySpace profile you made when you were 13? Yup, that’s still visible too. Boyd says that the only real ways that you can monitor your digital identity, at least in terms of what others can see, is to create an intentional online identity, only post things you don’t mind others seeing, and post often to bury old information.
Your Digital Identity Can Come Back To Haunt You
In the same vein as the previous lesson, albeit much more career-focused, Godin’s post displays that your digital past– whether you’ve since changed or not– can be revealing. Employers can and will look for you online, so make sure your online self doesn’t shoot your future self in the foot, no matter how hard it may be to resist.
Blogs Aren’t Just For The Internet-Obsessed
Cohen’s 2006 article urges professors to begin writing blogs, and for good reasons. They’re great sources of information output for academics to share with the world, they’re no longer solely anonymous, blogs aren’t difficult for the busy to maintain, and they can be used as passion projects for those who want something creative to do on the side. Though this article was written 14 years ago, a lot of its information still holds true, in that blogs have become much more accessible and much less stigmatized in the recent past.