This past week in Infoage14 we discussed the importance of digital identity and we ran into a few snags. As an activity we Googled ourselves to check on our own digital identities (yes, we signed out of Chrome first). Many students found they had at least several Google pages worth of links about themselves, mainly of things they created. However, some students only had a few links to their name and others found way more information about others who shared their name than they did themselves. Now whether or not this is a problem is up for debate. Does it really matter if you own your digital identity? In my opinion yes…yes it does.
For young people who have yet to establish themselves in a career it’s important to start working on your digital identity as soon as possible. You do not want to be 22-24 years old and the only thing that shows up when someone Googles you is your Myspace account from 10 years ago or worse someone who is not even you who has a criminal record. Now to be fair, it is unfair to be judged solely off of your presence in a digital space. HOWEVER, YOU ARE GOING TO BE JUDGED IN A DIGITAL SPACE! No matter what job you apply to someone in human resources is going to Google you and are expecting find at least one thing online about you, whether that’s your own website or simply a Facebook account, they are going to be looking. We increasingly live in a digital world and the cross between reality and that digital space is becoming ever more slender. It is up to you to take control of that space and take back your identity. In some cases you may have to fight for your own identity, most of due unless you have an extremely unique name. Though it is extremely important for you a presence online for professional reasons, what about the importance of a social life and your social digital identity?
Most conversations about digital identity and who you are online generally revolve around the idea of who you are in a professional setting. However, your professional career is only one part of your life and is actually a very small part of who you really are. So which one is more important, your social or professional digital identity? If you like to party all the time and want to be able to share your experiences having fun all the time, should you take the risk of posting pictures of yourself getting drunk or should you have be weary of what you post? If having fun is who you are, shouldn’t you have the right to show the world that you like to have fun? Well….yes yes you should. Life is not always about work, but is also not always about having fun, there is great balance between the two. That is why there should be a balance between the two when you work on controlling your own digital identity. If you only identify through work or through your social life, you may want to develop a system of checks and balances, unless you have landed your dream job and the two are one in the same. You should not have to sacrifice or shame on who you really are to just land a great job or just maintain your professionalism outside of work. But what about just your social life?
How important is it to maintain a social life online? Well that too is up for debate. For instance I do not have a Facebook and to many people especially my friends and family they see that as missing out on a great deal of information and they are correct. I have missed a lot of news about my friends and families personal lives by not being on Facebook, I even missed the announcement of my sister-in-law being pregnant and had to learn that through my girlfriend who of course saw the news on Facebook. But for me the benefits of Facebook do not outweigh the odds. I do not see the point of keeping up with hundreds of different peoples social lives, its just too much and I have way more important things to attend to than I do most of the things that get posted on Facebook (I’m not saying that my future niece or nephew is not important, but you get my point.) Additionally, I just don’t feel comfortable sharing that much personal information about myself on the internet. I don’t want two hundred plus people I don’t ever interact with to know that much detail about my life nor the many problems that come attached with said life, their my problems I’ll handle just fine without the need to outsource to so many other people. I guess you could call me an introvert when it comes to a digital space and my personal life, but on the other hand I love do what I’m doing right now, sharing my thoughts and ideas about the digital world in a digital space. This post right now will always be a part of my digital identity as long as it exist on the web. This post also contributes to the maintenance of my digital identity making it stronger with every word I type while also giving control over who I am in a digital world.
It’s important to take control of your digital identity both in a personal and professional space. Or you may end with someone else’s identity whether you like it or not. Sometimes people can deliberately take control of it for you. It pretty simple to take control of someone else’s digital identity, you just have to put the utmost amount of time in to do so. It takes years just to get several pages about yourself on Google, and if you aren’t hard at someone else might be so get at it. You don’t want this to happen to you because you continuously put off maintaining an online presence whether for you professional or social life: