Sunday, April 3, 2016

Tracking Our Digital Footprints


Hi! My name is Katelyn Dalton, and I'm a college student trying to learn how to market myself in a world where our digital footprints are beginning to define us.

A screenshot of my personal Facebook profile
I am currently working as an editor for a youth summer program, and I frequently see applications and resumes and the like. While I am not responsible for hiring decisions, some of my coworkers help in that process by reviewing the social media profiles of the applicants. When I first started working there, I was surprised at the type of things that would get candidates removed from the hiring pool. After all, does it really matter if they retweeted a picture of a scantily-clad celebrity or if they were tagged in a picture in which they were holding a bottle of a questionable substance?  However, I soon realized why this was necessary--the company I work for wanted to hire individuals who well-represented the company ideals, and by using social media profiles as an initial interview, they were able to effectively narrow down the candidate pool.

Even Plato Knew It

To learn how to stop staring at the shadows, check out Mitchell Cottrell's project!

Before we go any further, let's take a step back in history and see what Plato, an ancient and particularly famous philosopher, has to say on the subject. In his allegory of the cave, Plato describes a scene in which numerous individuals are chained to the ground in a manner that forces them to face the wall ahead of them. On this wall, they see several shadows. Some of these shadows are seen so frequently that the people begin to assign them names. In reality, these shadows come from people and objects passing in front of a fire located behind the imprisoned individuals. However, because the  shadows are all that can be seen, the chained people believe the shadows to be the reality (and not just a shallow representation).

How Do We Communicate?

How does an old allegory relate to digital identity? Well, when the only thing the people could see were shadows, they started to see the shadows as the real thing. On, we learn that the following occurs every second:
  • 7,127 Tweets
  • 486 Instagram Posts
  • 1,475 Tumblr Posts
  • 2,043 Skype Calls
  • 53,102 Google Searches
The internet is becoming the main way--for some people, it seems to be the only way--that society communicates. We build relationships through the internet (see my friend Laycee's posts arguing that we need to stop this), we build careers with the internet, we can even go grocery shopping via the internet. And if what people see of you is your internet presence, then that starts to become the reality. We can build up our credibility or tear it down, all depending on what we say online.

Your identity is happening more online than it is off.
"There is no hiding offline; with or without you, people are talking about your organization online and on social media...the digital footprints you leave behind...write your corporate history." (Matejic, Nicole. Social Media Rules of Engagement: Why Your Online Narrative Is the Best Weapon during a Crisis.)ty'

In December of 2015, Wael Ghonim gave a TED Talk that discussed how social media could drive change. In his talk, he stated that "we tend to only communicate with people that we agree with, and thanks to social media, we can mute, un-follow and block everybody else...It's as if we forget that the people behind screens are actually real people and not just avatars."

 Final Argument

Society's perception of reality quickly becomes reality, and they way we communicate with other dictates how we are perceived. As such, when communication changes, the way people see us will also change. In eras past, all your employer saw was your work ethic and production quality, so that was how your were identified and labeled. It didn't much matter what decisions one made in their personal life, because those with whom they had business relationships with likely wouldn't know.The only people who knew you from your personal life was your family and friends. Work life and personal life were two clearly distinct categories. However, with the rise of a digital age saturated with social media and perpetual, prolific updates, these two worlds are edging closer and closer together.

Because we have the opportunity to create our personal identity and essentially reinvent ourselves online, that is where we showcase ourselves. As such, we have a responsibility to be careful stewards of our online identity. Employers checking out Facebook and other social media profiles are making use of a powerful tool to figure out who people really are, and who they believe themselves to be. Our digital footprints define us, so it isn't unethical for employers to want to see the very identity that we have put out on the world wide web.

To make sure that you know how to grow beyond your social media profiles, check out Kotahi Tarawhiti's project here.

For a counterargument in favor of increased security of our online cyber identity's, check out Jolene Hammond's post here.

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