The Unintended Foot Print

Living in a modern society requires you to have a digital footprint to a certain extent. Even if you don’t use a smartphone, credit or debits cards, drive a car, use a computer, or use a Fitbit or any other electronic device; you still will likely have a digital footprint even if it is very small. Because even if you are not using any of these devices, other people are using them and you can end up showing up in places you didn’t expect. So many devices are being used by so many people that it is very hard to be digitally invisible. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that you need to knowledgeable and proactive in the management of your digital footprint. As an adult in my thirties I am very happy that social media was not around when I was a kid. There is not a digital record of all of the mistakes and bad choices that I made when I was younger. Kids today who participate in social media are typically not mature enough to understand the consequences of poor social media exposure. They often learn the lesson the hard way when they get rejected from their first college choice or when they get fired from a job because of something they posted about their boss on social media. Adults are only somewhat better at managing their social media exposure as the ways in which people use social and online mediums is continuing to change. People need to understand that the groups they belong to, the activities they participate in, their preferences in music, literature, hobbies, and everything else is available online. Even if the group you belong to only meets in person, they likely have a Facebook page, Twitter account, or even an online newsletter that will link them with that group. All of the things found online about us make up our digital reputation. We should do our best to ensure our online reputation reflects our real life reputation. Unlike our real life reputation, the online representation of us is visible to anybody in the world who takes the time to look and is often lacking context to explain it.
To get an idea of my own digital footprint I started out with just a basic Google search of my name. What I found was mostly what I expected to find, one things I had forgotten, and one I never expected to find. All of these things I feel represent the main ideas people need to keep in mind when interacting online and even in real life. First there are the things I expected to find. These include my Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, WordPress, EdTech website, and YouTube account. These are all resources that I currently use in my personal, educational, and professional life. I try to keep these sites up to date and I make conscious decision about what I post to all of them. Looking at my social media accounts would only give a personal a small chunk of understand who I am and what I believe and this is a personal choice. The item I forgot about was an old MySpace account. If you don’t know what MySpace is you are probably younger than 30. There isn’t much that is able to be viewed on this account as I haven’t used it in over a decade. There are some pictures though that I would prefer to not have out there. This site is a good reminder that the internet is forever. It’s important to remember the things you do online are always there, even long after you have forgotten about them. Lastly I found a court document that is linked to because of the poor choices of a family member. A person who doesn’t read it may think I have a criminal past, but I don’t. This document wasn’t online a few years ago. It appears the courts are trying to make more information available online by digitizing older court cases. While I can understand why they would do this, I’m not happy at having this come up when I search for myself. This finding reminds me that the people you are related to or associate with can give you a footprint that you are not happy about, but also cannot do anything about it.

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