As part of the 23 Things MOOC from the University of Edinburgh, I did a little bit of searching today to see what my digital footprint looks like.
I have an extremely common name, so most of what I found with a Google search was links for information about Jon Stewart and links for the Green Lantern. There are various important historical John Stewarts (John Stewart Mill for one), so my footprint is buried.
However, if you Google search John Stewart OU, you’ll find a lot more about me. Most of the Google results from my computer (influenced by my Google search history and all of the other data Google has on me) pointed at my blog and my other professional profiles.
I have taught workshops on how to manage your digital presence, so this pretty well fit with my expectations. In these presentations, I stress that you should create a digital presence that you control rather than letting people stumble upon your old photos from Facebook. While it’s still possible to find pictures of me doing dumb things as an undergrad, most people will click instead on my blog or LinkedIn account or other, professional profiles.
I am interested in the multiple personas/facets that we each present out on the internet. You might have an Instagram persona – the you that lives your best life. You might even have multiple Instagram personas. There might be a different you on Facebook that your parents and grandparents can deal with. On Twitter, we might find the the media critic version of you that watches Netflix all day and shares some thoughts. There are probably some professional profiles and some less than professional relics of earlier days floating around. Perhaps one day, we’ll have a centralized collection of our stuff that we can mete out to people based on which version of ourselves we want them to see, hiding the other personas behind a wall. For now though, if you post it online, assume that your mom, your grandparents, and your future employer will all find it.