Digital Footprints

February 11, 2016

A few weeks back, my mom mentioned in a conversation that she was looking for pictures from one of my recent trips, and said, “luckily I could find you on Google.” I took pause, knowing that I do in fact Google myself from time to time, as a measure of what’s out there, both controlled and otherwise. When she said she found a video, I got a bit nervous until she explained it was from a school project last summer. That made total sense to me, although she did admit the material was a bit dry (mass communication theory can be).

But it did get me thinking, and writing as it usually does. How often do you check your digital footprints?

I tend to Google myself maybe once or twice a year, looking at the top three to five pages of search results. It’s a practice I’ve held for the last 10 years or so, largely just to see if my own website (you’re on it) shows up and how it ranks.

In that spirit, I just completed a quick search for myself; something I probably should have done earlier last month when I began my job search. I’m somewhat blessed in that my full name is unique. Therefore, I can isolate almost all results to the combination of my first and last name fairly easily.

This round netted just about 1.3K search results; not huge, but not surprising. As I’ve noticed before, my social networks were at the top of the list, with Twitter and of course Google+ (a network I never engage) at the top. While not my website’s home page, but my “Follow Me” page ranked in the top three results, and should someone go to my Twitter or LinkedIn profiles – one and two results ranked accordingly – they could easily locate my site.

I credit much of my “clean” search history with being mindful of what and when I post to all my networks. While I’m most active on Facebook and Instagram (two networks not highlighted in the top results … can’t imagine why), I run through a mental sanity check. What am I posting, who will see it, will it add any value to my friends, is it self-indulgent, would I want my mom or boss to see it? Seems pretty straight forward, but you’d be surprised.

As each generation has quickly adopted the latest technologies and trends, no new medium has been as unforgiving about its users than the Internet, and with it social networks.

While information abounds on how to educate those young ones jumping into social media and digital spheres, as well as available for adults who may need a reeducation in how to manage their digital persona. I believe it comes down to a few simple criteria and self-control:

Do you want to see the post, content, picture forever, cause that’s how long it would last? Think of it like a digital tattoo that’s stuck to your online body forever.

Would you want your parent or boss to see it five minutes or five years from now when you’re up for that promotion? Google never forgets, and neither should you.

Hold the post for five minutes. Write it, attach the photo, then minimize the browser or shut off your phone and wait contemplating the criteria above. It’s likely that your post isn’t mission critical for the next few moments, which should give you time to think through the permanence of the image or post.

How do you manage your digital foot print? Do you care, are you obsessed with it, or is more of a nuisance in your world?

Post Tags:

Digital Footprints, Online Profile, Profile, Search, Social Media, Social Networks,