Reflections on Digital Identity

When initially thinking about digital identity, a few things come to mind:

  • It is complex!
  • What is my identity? Is it current/reflective of who I am today?
  • How does it change over time?
  • How do we help students really understand its importance and consequences for the present and future?
  • What will it look like in the future when my kids grow up?
20 Online identity ideas | identity, tech humor, today cartoon

On its surface, digital identity seems pretty straightforward. Underneath, as @Brendafredgirl points out, there is much more to it than I would have initially thought. As the Government of Canada says, “A digital identity is essentially the electronic equivalent of your identity in the physical world.” Simple right. It becomes a little more complex when you consider the implications of a digital identity – identification, authentication, security… My understanding of the concept is beginning to move away from the general what I post on facebook thoughts to more serious thoughts of passwords and identity protection.

My digital identity is much different now than it was when I go back 20 or so years to when it began. Years ago, I basically cleansed (I think? I hope!) my facebook timeline of old. Not that there were inappropriate things, I just didn’t find it necessary to have them visible anymore. All that remains are mainly birthday wishes from 11 years ago and older. I was in university before I got into facebook, so I thankfully missed out on it in my high school days. The only identity I had in high school was through MSN Messenger. I remember going into chat rooms and talking complete strangers about curling. It is scary to think that back then I would easily tell people where I was from and other personal details. I look back at myself in shame when I think about some of the things I did back then that I would never do now and would never let my own kids do. It does bring back some memories though!

Throughout and after university facebook was really the only social media platform I used. It, email, and texting basically made up my digital identity. For the most part, they were used as communication tools and time killers. Pictures to look at, ways to see what people from my past were up to. Towards the end of my university career, I opened a Twitter account for a conference I attended. I had to send out a tweet to be entered to win a prize. I still use this account personally, but that one tweet remains the only one I have ever sent.

While I still have a facebook and, now, two Twitter accounts (one personal, one professional), my digital identity in this respect remains fairly limited. My personal accounts are complete time wasters. I don’t post and I spend too much time on them procrastinating from doing real work. I am slowly dipping my toes into the water on posts with my professional Twitter account. While I want to use it as a platform to bring awareness to social justice issues that I find important I am still hesitant because of some of the conflict and opposing views that can come with doing that. @lovepreet7001 made mention of these challenges. I just don’t have the time or energy to deal with people who will attack me for my beliefs and ways of thinking. And I also don’t care to get into online debates with people whom I disagree with. Perhaps I need to explore how to use my social media for purposes of uniting people. Easier said than done?!?!

Perhaps where I need to take my learning next with my digital identity is into the world of identity protection and security. It is actually quite scary to think of how much of our lives are online and accessible. Banking information, health records, addresses, loved ones…they are all out there. I hope I am not too na├»ve in thinking that all of that information is properly protected. Stories like this one that happened right here in Saskatchewan scare me. I definitely need to check in to some password protection and security measures to make sure my information is as safe as possible. Bitwarden as referenced by Alec might be a good place to start.

As I look to the future, I almost fret to think of what digital identity will look like when my toddler is old enough to become part of the online world. Will he be prepared? What do I need to do to prepare him to understand his identity and how it fits into the overall picture of being a good digital citizen?

4 thoughts on “Reflections on Digital Identity

  1. Chris, you made some very interesting points around the seriousness of digital identity and password protection. Maybe it was laziness on my part, lack of knowing, or both but I did not consider the seriousness of protecting my online identity until more recently. I still have some serious work to do and agree that looking at some of the places Alec recommended would be a good place to start. For my social identity I fell in the same era as you, MSN messenger and then Facebook. I use Facebook as a means lately to just waste time, and see what my family and friends are doing. I realize I do not post as much as I use to, is that because I am becoming more aware of posting? I have nothing to really share? I am busy doing other things (such as university classes, basketball coaching, going to the gym, doing mom things, walking dogs etc..)? I want to say it is all of the above but also the feeling of needing to just unplug. Ever feel that need? Just to walk away from technology for awhile? Technology is becoming all to consuming and overwhelming at times especially when having to worry about identity theft happening right here in Saskatchewan.

  2. Thank you for sharing, Chris. Like yourself and Christine, I have made steps over the past year in learning more and being active about digital protection of my identity. Much of this has been driven by my employer who heavily ramped up their security following the hacking of Sask. Polytech. This occurred over the last few years and they had to shut down their online services to students and others. (https://thestarphoenix.com/news/saskatchewan/sask-polytechnic-provides-update-on-october-cyberattack-fixes)

    This lasted for a few months and completely disrupted their operations. I think this incident “woke up” many institutions and changed our thinking about digital security. As an employee, I have undergone and continue to engage in professional development modules relating to this topic. I have increased my digital literacy though new terminology, learned how to use digital security keys, and utilized password protection programs. As this is an area that will continue to adapt, we also recognize the need for flexibility and ongoing education.

  3. As a new parent myself, I too think of how to properly set up my kiddo to be well educated around the concepts of digital identity and citizenship. However, I think the best thing that we can do is to be open with our kiddos and to share our experiences. Encouraging our kiddos to talk to us and share their experiences, as well as using teachable moments to educate our kiddos is important. Will we get it right every time? Of course not, but making an effort to teach our kiddos and engage with them in an authentic way is so critical.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *