What does your online presence say about you?
According to the Pew Research Centre, “[s]even in ten online adults have searched online for information about other people” (2010). At first, it may seem shocking, but I can’t remember the last time I bought something, paid for a service, or traveled without looking up reviews and organisation websites. Whenever I plan a vacation, TripAdvisor is my first stop before selecting a hotel. When we were looking into fences for our backyard, we googled each company we were considering before finally selecting the one with the best combination of positive reviews and reasonable prices. We do the same thing for anything we have ever bought (i.e. electronics, household appliances, flooring, etc.) as well as services we have hired (i.e. house builder, wedding photographer, etc.). Most people I know have done the same before making a significant purchase.
People are not simply doing this to others; many google themselves. Although it may be awkward and egotistical, as pointed out by Heather, it brings to light what digital footprint you are leaving behind yourself. Just like some of my colleagues, I too had an interest in seeing what I have left as a mark on the Internet after reading this week’s articles. It isn’t much. I am represented in but one of the pictures that shows up in the images search. I have to admit, that picture is there solely due to this class, and it is the only picture I have used for the different social media accounts I have created for this class (i.e. this blog, my about.me page, and my LinkedIn profile). There are only a couple websites that link back to me personally after the google search, including the social media explained previously and my school blog. Like Sarah, I too searched for myself under my maiden name (funny how they want to auto-correct my maiden name). Even less showed up then; no pictures were of me, and the only websites that related back to me personally show up on the second page of results.
Before this course, I was proud of this fact. I was glad people couldn’t find me online, or anything personal about myself online. I am a very personal person, and had always wanted it to stay that way. Just like Audrey Watters notes, I too always worried about safety and what people could do with the available information about me online.
Now, I am thinking a little differently. I can still be private, while maintaining a professional presence online. In fact, I think it is important to develop such a digital footprint to become a good role model for my students and for my own professional growth and development. As can be learned from Alec Brownstein’s story, putting yourself out there online can yield great professional benefits.
This makes it essential therefore for students to learn how to incorporate safe and professional online identities in their every day lives. According to Kristin Rushowy, digital footprints are going to be the new paper resumé. Although this resumé is still required by most companies looking to hire, the online presence is becoming more and more important in this process. Social media shows the world who you really are; how you represent yourself on a regular basis, what your interests are, and how you present yourself to the world.
So, your online reputation really does matter. Even now, many companies have developed policies for their employees online personae. Even if your company doesn’t insist on a professional online persona, it is in your best interest to do so yourself. There are countless stories of teachers alone losing jobs because of poor choices made online. Therefore, not only is digital citizenship important to incorporate into education, but so is the development of an online professional, respectable, and appropriate persona. I think back to my Career Ed unit I do with my students every year, and realize how poorly I have been preparing them for things of the future. We make resumés and cover letters, but we don’t speak explicitly to the development of a digital footprint that can be used for future applications, or one that can be seen by possible employers. This has
been a disservice to students, and I already have a multitude of ideas of way to address it in the classroom. I would absolutely love to incorporate something like Adam’s list of questions he asks himself before posting anything online in the class, as these should be universal for all students (and adults!) before developing a professional digital footprint.
We always need to think and remember: what do we want our future employers to see, and what message are we sending the world of ourselves?