With the constantly increasing prevalence of online presence taking over our whole world, the concept of IRL (in real life) is losing it’s touch. As mentioned in many of the resources I am going to share with you in this post and discussions I have had in my EDTC 300 class, the concept of IRL suggests that our digital world is NOT real life. There is an increasing notion that not only is our online world, very much real to our lives, it is our real lives, and just as much a part of our real lives, as our offline world. The overlapping of these two “worlds”, so to speak has created an increasing significance of the concept of digital identity. The following video introduces the concept of digital identity:
Essentially, your digital identity is a permanent online collection of data about you that expresses how you see yourself and influences how others see you. Even without intending to, a whole lot of your life probably exists online, just by being a “normal” citizen within society and being relatively active in your use of the internet (with this often comes some type of social media use). The above video mentions how it is important to realize that your digital identity is not just a permanent footprint you are leaving on the web, but rather is it “like a tattoo” that comes along with you, everywhere that you go, as a permanent documentation of who you are.
My Cyber-sleuthing Experience
In the beginning going on a full out cyber-sleuth to find out everything that I could about a near stranger, felt oddly invasive. It was interesting because I feel as though any 20-something female like myself has surely cyber-stalked someone, at some time or another (see TikTok). However, in this setting it definitely felt a little strange to search up a fellow classmate, as I can definitely say I have never put my FBI level cyber-stalking skills to use in a professional/educational way ha ha. Overall, in the end, this experience taught me a lot about myself and what I need to work on more than anything. It showed me that I have a lot to work on digital identity wise. It is very clear that in my life many people are going to do the same thing to me as, I did to my fellow classmate, whether they be future employers, or anyone. Therefore, I need to maintain an up to date, professional and accurate portrayal of who I am, who I want to be, and who I want them to see me as.
Now, as far as my experience cyber-stalking my classmate, Annissa, it was interesting to see what I could find about someone that I had never actually met before. I mostly based my search on this digital sleuthing exercise. I already had access to her blog and twitter account (used for EDTC 300). I decided to start with a simple google search to see what would come up. The only google image that came up when I searched her name was a video from one of her blog posts for this class. Facebook was the first social media that came up in my search and the first account that came up was hers. From Facebook I gathered that she is from Swift Current, but there was no other information on her about page that I could see (not being friends on Facebook). The only photos that I could see was her current and past profile pictures. In checking out these photos I learned (assumed) a few things: she’s in a relationship, graduated in 2013, used to be in dance, likes kids and seems to have lots of kind friends. Thats about all for Facebook. It was clean, limited, and private for those who she chooses to add as a friend. Next her twitter (that I do follow) came up. Her twitter account was of course very neat, professional, and used for her education. From her twitter I learned that she is in her third year of education, and identifies as a life long learner and plant mom! I checked out Instagram and found that she’s pretty active on there, showing little pieces of her life and what she is like but still keeping everything very clean and professional (she also met Daniel Radcliffe which is just really cool so I had to include). The last place where I cyber-sleuthed Annissa was on her blog. On her about me page I learned that she is 24, in Elementary Education, and lives with her partner who is also a teacher. I also found that upon going to University after high school she left school and moved to London as a nanny which helped her re-discover her love for children and lead her back here to take Elementary Education. This is such a cool story, that I totally relate to regarding the feelings of uncertainty and is something really great to share with her audience to give a little insight on what lead her to where she is today. My overall impression of Annissa is that she’s friendly, motivated, supportive, adventurous, loves to travel, and is just a good person overall. Based on her digital footprint, I would undoubtedly trust her, hire her, and be her friend! I did not find anything that was questionable in the slightest. I would say regarding personal life, Annissa is an under sharer, rather than over sharer (with strangers) which is not at all a bad thing. I would say she shares a normal amount of information that makes sense to share. However, regarding more professional life (especially through the use of a really nice informative blog and sharing many education resources on twitter) Annissa shares a lot of great information for those checking her out to learn about her professional life and who she is as a future educator.
In cyber-stalking Annissa, the article “Having multiple online identities is more normal than you think” came to mind. This article reiterates the idea that most people have multiple different social media platforms for different audiences. It mentions the idea of “different sites, different audiences, different purposes” and that “people have diverse, rich lives that aren’t contained within a single idea and persona”. This notion of having multiple identities is indicative to just how multifaceted people are. In checking out what I could about Annissa with the little access to her digital identity that I had, I kept this in mind. The information that I gained about her identity was only a piece of her life that she chose to share. This is something that everyone needs to keep in mind when analyzing a person (especially someone they do not know personally) online.
In the video “How one tweet can ruin your life”, Jon Ronson explained that social media has done the wonderful deed of giving voices to people who have never been able to have a voice before, but we have now created “a surveillance society where the smartest way to survive is to go back to being voiceless”. He outlines a case where one tweet did essentially ruin a woman’s life because of the way that people used social media to band together and demand her life be ruined. He stated, “Twitter took control her life and dismantled it piece by piece”. This is an extremely important statement clearly demonstrating the power that social media has over our lives, if we let it. I never want to give anyone or anything that much power over my life and how I am perceived. It becomes clear here that everything that we do online can be recorded, analyzed, and resurfaced at any time. For many people, there is evidence of everything that we have done, available out there for anyone to see, and do with it what they want. We have no protection from this, so we need to ensure that the online presence that we exhibit to the world is something to be proud of. We all make mistakes as part of growing up, but now these mistakes are being projected onto a world stage. As educators, I believe that it is largely our job to prepare our students for that world. In collaboration with students’ parents, educators have unique access to their students minds/lives to really inspire who they become. It is important that we take care of having such an important role.
Prior to taking EDTC 300 I had honestly never really thought about what could be out there about me and representing who I am. I think that to some extent I have always been aware of the potential consequences of sharing distasteful posts, photos, comments, etc. online so I am not overly worried about something bad that I have said or done being dug up, although that threat is ever present. However, having had access to the online world and many forms of social media all through middle/high school years growing up, this is definitely something to become aware of and get in control of. This lesson has made me extremely inspired/enlightened to put a serious effort into cleaning up my digital identity from when I first had access to the internet/social media and shape it into who I am now and who I want to be, so that people can have an accurate and current perception of my identity, online and offline. It is my job, and my job only, to make sure that I have an online presence which promotes myself the way that I want to be portrayed, by my friends and strangers, alike.
Does what I have currently presented online represent who I am? To an extent. Rather, it probably represents pieces of who I once was, or who I want to become. With this comes the overarching notion of the importance of establishing a positive digital presence. Being active in a positive way online and putting out there what you want people to see, not only increases your audiences ability to find the current, positive, and beneficial information first, and push down the old, irrelevant, or less prideful online existence that you may have had, but it also puts the power in your own hands, and allows you to be in control of displaying how others see you and how you are presented in this very real, digital, world. One should always desire to be in control of their own digital identity so it is essential to make yourself present online in a way that displays what you want to be known for and how you want people to see you.
Lastly, I just wanted to provide a link to an article that really stood out to me regarding all of this. “The IRL Fetish” by Nathan Jurgenson provide a lot of great information about how every moment of our lives being over saturated with digital potential (texts, emails, status updates, photos, check-ins, tweets, etc.) has actually created this phenomenon of most people being more obsessed with being offline than ever before. He states, “we have never cherished being alone, valued introspection, and treasured information disconnection more than we do now”. With this being said, this highlights the notion mentioned above that even when you choose to be offline, you digital identity is still there, for anyone to see. Also, in limiting your online presence, you may be confining/hindering yourself without even realizing it. So put an effort into creating a digital identity that is a current and consistent representation of you. Make it something that even when you are off living your “IRL” life offline, speaks for you. Make it something you are proud of and will be proud of for the many years to come. In a lot of cases, our digital identities will outlive us. Without even meeting you, anyone with access to the internet can develop their own idea of you. So make an effort to create and maintain an online presence for yourself, that presents not only who you are, but how you want others to see you, in such a way that it speaks for itself.