It Follows You Everywhere – Digital Identity

Hello everyone!

Digital citizenship, digital footprint, digital profiles and digital identity are all words that are thrown around when talking about someone’s online presence. These words can be confusing, but they are all very similar. In this blog post, I will focus on the importance of digital identity for people today and in the future.

A person’s digital identity is becoming increasingly important in today’s world. A person’s digital identity can be more important than a person’s resume. Digital identities are extremely important, but the term can be confusing to some people. When I think about a person’s digital identity, I think of it as what shows up on Google when a person’s name is googled. Digital footprints make up a person’s digital identity. Digital footprints can include a person’s social media page(s), blogs, photos, or articles. Digital footprints shape a person’s digital identity, but that does not mean that they are all positive. Digital footprints can be negative or positive influences on a person’s digital identity.

For example, a picture of a person getting extremely drunk with friends may negatively influence someone’s digital identity. A professional blog or Twitter account may positively influence a person’s digital identity.

Everyone knows that the internet is forever and it never forgets. This can be scary for some people, especially if they have not been thoughtful when posting online. With the internet and social media being such an important part of student’s lives, digital identity is becoming more and more important and students need to be educated about digital identity.

I grew up when the internet and social media were still on the rise. I experienced technology quickly growing. Social media was part of my later elementary school life and my high school life. I understand the way that the digital world and the “real” world are not two separate things, but they are connected and influence each other daily. Students now and future students are living in a world that is highly influenced by the online world. With the world that students are living in being so connected with the online world, students must learn the importance of being safe online and the influence their digital identity will have on their life in the future.

I learnt about digital identity probably when I was starting high school, but I was already on social media and using the internet before that. I found that I was taught that the internet is bad and a scary place. I was also taught that I should never, (ever, ever), post anything that might look bad on the internet because it will be used against me in the future. I was also taught that it was better to stay private and not go on the internet to avoid posting something that might look bad. I know that I was taught to fear the internet but, like almost every other high school student, I still went on social media sites and I still used the internet as a way to communicate and stay connected with my friends. I was cautious (and still am cautious) about what I post, but I still post online and enjoy using social media and the internet to stay connected.

The way that I was taught about digital identity did not give me a good idea of what digital identity is and it made me fearful of the internet. This way of teaching will not work with future students and it does not give students education about digital identity. Students know that the internet can be used in a scary negative way, but they also know that it can be used in a positive way. For students, the positives outweigh the negatives and they are going to use the internet.

If I were to teach students about digital identity, my main goal of the lesson would be that students understand the importance of digital identity. I would start with showing my students the video below that explains digital identity and the importance of it.

Students need to learn that their digital identity is their online resume that anyone can see and use to make judgements about them. I would not tell my students this to scare them, but to emphasize the importance of digital identity. I would get my students to try googling themselves and see what shows up. Student’s need to learn that their digital identity will also follow them wherever they go and a bad digital identity is difficult to erase.

I would get my students to Google Justine Sacco and show the influence that one bad tweet can have on a person’s life. I would ensure that my students understand that it does not matter how many followers they have, that anyone can screenshot or retweet something and it can be shared with the entire world. I would use Justine Sacco as an example of how much one negative tweet can change a person’s digital identity. I will also show my students that positive things, such as a professional Twitter account, a positive Facebook and Instagram presence can have on a person’s digital identity.

I want to educate my future students about digital identity. I know that digital identity will influence their future job and university opportunities. I want my students to understand that it is perfectly normal and safe to have an online presence, but I also want them to understand they need to be responsible and thoughtful on the internet.

In the TED talk that Monica Lewinsky speaks in is a great video to reference when discussing digital identity. I really agree with her that students, and people in general must be compassionate online and be kind to others. People make mistakes and will likely post something they regret, but people don’t need to put salt on an open wound. In Jon Ronson’s TED talk, he also discussed compassion on the internet. He discussed Justine Sacco’s situation and the importance of compassion on the internet as well. He states that in Justine Sacco’s situation, people were tweeting things that are compassionate towards AIDS campaigns, yet they were tearing down Justine Sacco.

I want my students to understand that they need to be thoughtful about what they post online. I also want them to think about being compassionate and kind to others when they are posting online. I hope that my future students understand, through the example of Justine Sacco’s experience, that one bad post can ruin a person’s digital identity. I also want my students to know that the more positive things that are online, the more they can bury one bad post or it can make that importance of that one bad post not be as much.

A person’s digital identity will follow them forever and it is constantly being added to and changing, a little or a lot, with each post that people make. I do not want my students to be scared of the internet and want them to have positive digital identities. I will educate my students about digital identity as much as I can and I hope that with this education, they will make positive online decisions.

Thank you all for reading this loooong post. Digital identity is extremely important in the world. I hope you enjoyed this post even though it was long. Comment below how you would teach your students about digital identity!

Ashley Osachoff

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