This post is coming at y’all quite late so I apologize if my thoughts aren’t as coherent as usual. However, being able to finally take my first vacation in two years has done wonders for my mental health and is well worth the last minute work catch up.
As someone who was born in the 90s, I really “grew up” along side social media. During my childhood, platforms such as MSN Messenger and Myspace emerged. Then, there was Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, Vine, etc… I participated on many social media sites with little to no thought about what I was posting. Thankfully, I never actually posted anything that was “bad”, just awkward or embarrassing.
There are two experiences in my life that have really demonstrated the impact that an old digital identity can have on people:
First, when I was in my second year of university, one of our prof went and found everything they could of ours online. She showed us all the posts, photos, tweets etc. that were open for anyone to see and read. As I said, I did not have things that I was worried about people seeing, but it did really open my eyes to just how much is out there if your privacy settings aren’t accurately set. After this experience, I locked down my Facebook and made my Instagram account private. I also wiped my old tweets so that I was able to start fresh as a new professional (or someone on their way to attempting to be one).
The second time was more recent. For my friend’s birthday, we did one of those TikTok powerpoint nights. My one friend selected the theme of “Rating your Facebook Presence in the Early 2000s”. Let’s just say she did a deeeeep dive into the old posts, photos, and likes of the guests in order to rate their presence online. Many people failed. It was a good time as she is naturally funny and you can imagine by her rubric below how the comments went, but it was also eye opening to see how some of the things that people had posted in the past could be misconstrued or things posted that were possibly considered acceptable or popular “at the time,” but are now not things that educated adults would say/post.
As I said previously, I am now someone who pays a lot more attention to my digital identity. I try and keep things from social media to online banking as secure as possible. We have all seen the ways in which old posts and photos can be quickly shared in instances of political sabotage (Trudeau “brownface“) or even cyberbullying (Amanda Todd). As a teacher, I have always tried to keep my digital identity small and my presence to the public online minimal. In her article, (Digital) Identity in a World that No Longer Forgets, Katia says that “digital identity has, in effect, become about gaming search results by flooding the Internet with the desired, palatable “self” so that this performance of identity overtakes all of the others.” I find this statement to be quite true as it follows the viewpoint I had back when I locked down and attempted to wipe away lots of my online presence from my youth.
However, since beginning classes with Alec, I have started to again become more active online, mostly through twitter. I am starting to realize that having an online presence, especially as a teacher, is not necessarily a bad thing. There are definitely many positives to having an online presence and being able to use it to make an impact and remain educated.
It is hard to say exactly what the future hold in regards to my digital identity. I plan on keeping up with my new twitter account, at least a lurker for sure. I will be getting married this summer and will likely change my name. I am sure that this will also have an impact on my digital identity. As Kat mentioned in her blog post this week, changing her name has yielded different search results as she has almost created a second digital identity in a way.
In the future, I hope to have children and I can see how the concept of digital identity and its connections to digital citizenship are important topic to discuss with them. In the meantime, I will begin these discussions in my own classrooms. Megan shared some great resources in her post on how we can work on teaching students about digital identity, digital citizenship, and safety online. My goal this year is to begin to figure out how I can approach these topics at school and where to best integrate these lessons into my curriculum so that they are being touched on continuously, instead of just as a unit.