Your Digital Identity: What Google Knows and Why It Matters

Your Digital Identity: What Google Knows and Why It Matters

Digital Identity

Reflecting on my digital identity, I’ve realized there’s a lot I didn’t know or haven’t thought much about. Since we were kids, we’ve been figuring out who we are. But now, there’s this thing called digital identity, thanks to technology. It is a representation of who we are online. Even though we might think it doesn’t matter, it actually does a lot! Your digital identity is like your online reputation. People believe that what they see and read about us online, what we post and who we talk to online says a lot about us.

When I searched my name, I found my Facebook account, along with my professional profiles on LinkedIn and ResearchGate. I was surprised that my Instagram account didn’t pop up because I use it a lot. Also, I saw my name on the University of Windsor website, where you can find my Master’s Degree defense and academic papers from my research work. I don’t use my ResearchGate profile as much anymore since I’m not actively researching and publishing papers in scientific journals. The first time I looked up my name, I wanted to find my Educites profile, but I couldn’t see it for some reason. When I tried again later, I was happy to find some of my blog posts showing up in the Google search for my name! Yay!

When it comes to posting on social media, I use only Instagram and Facebook profiles, mostly Instagram, but I don’t post every single day. I’m not someone who is very big on social media, but whenever I do post, I’m careful about what I share in my digital world. I’m also picky about who I add as friends or followers on my accounts. Both of my social media accounts are private, just for my friends and family.  I’ve learned that my online presence is mostly private, except for my  LinkedIn and ResearchGate accounts, which I use for professional purposes, and my blog. On my social media profiles, there are mainly pictures of me and some information about my interests, giving people a basic understanding of what I look like and what I enjoy.
During our last class, we talked a little bit about how people can find it strange if someone isn’t on social media like Instagram or Facebook. If you’re not active on these platforms, people might see you as antisocial. This video is about a girl panicking because her new boyfriend wasn’t on social media. It’s interesting how people’s social media habits can become such a big deal in relationship. I’d say I’m pretty active on social media, but I genuinely respect those who prefer to stay away from it. I completely understand and respect their choice. And let’s be honest – rather than tagging them as antisocial, it might be worth recognizing that those who aren’t into social media could actually be more sociable. Some people simply prefer real-life interactions and gatherings with friends rather than constantly sharing their lives online. I don’t blame them, because is life on social media even real?
In the article by ESPN, it explains how social media shows a polished version of life, making people feel they need to be perfect. It makes people’s expectations much higher for themselves which in turn affects their confidence and self-esteem. I think it’s important to remember that nobody is perfect. It’s tough to realize that what’s posted isn’t always reality. We tend to believe that people who post perfect photos have flawless lives, but that’s not true. It’s crucial to remember that behind those perfect images, people have their own struggles and insecurities. Everyone experiences moments of imperfection, but social media tends to showcase a biased version of reality because few people share their flaws.

Tweeted Away: How One Post Can Turn Your Life Upside Down

Before this course, I didn’t think much about my online presence. But now, I realize that I’ve been looking out for myself in my own way. There are so many examples of how just one post can change your life forever. What we post online can shape how people see us, sometimes even more than our real-life interactions, and it’s so scary to think about! Jon Ronson’s TED talk, How one Tweet can ruin your life, explains this very well and shows how a single social media post can have big consequences and dramatically change someone’s life.

Here are some impactful quotes that he shared:

  • “Twitter took control of her life and dismantled it piece by piece”
  • “”We are defined more by our minor misdemeanors than our major accomplishments.”
  • “We are so defined by our Googleability.”
  • “We want to hurt people and not feel bad about it.”
  • “One of the punishments of losing your reputation is that people won’t believe you if you tell them the truth.”

Justine Sacco’s life was turned upside down by just one inappropriate joke. Although what she said wasn’t okay, the reaction was way too harsh. She said: “Living in Africa puts us in a bit of a bubble when it comes to what is going on in the Third World. I was making fun of that bubble.” People made cruel comments like “last tweet of your career” with the hashtag #HasJustineLandedYet, and it got even worse. It hurt me inside to see people lacking empathy, almost enjoying how her life was being ruined. Why can’t we just be kinder to each other? After watching this video, I felt genuinely sorry for Justine and I felt that she deserved public sympathy and a chance to rebuild her life.

Jon Ronson also wrote a book called “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed,”  which points out that the main victim of Justine Sacco’s tweet was herself. While her tweet offended many and went viral, it didn’t directly harm anyone else. She faced intense humiliation, depression, and ongoing anxiety as a result. Her mistake continues to haunt her online. Jon Ronson not only talks to people who’ve been publicly shamed, like Justine Sacco, but he also digs into why it happens. He looks at how Google makes reputations stick and talks to people who help repair the damage caused by online scandals.

Digital footprint is like a trail in the digital world, showing who we are. It’s not just about what you post, but it’s the breadcrumbs and the silent traces that we leave behind. This article talks about how important it is to protect your digital footprint and how to delete it. Personally, I believe that we have the right to have elements of our digital footprint to be forgotten. The right to be forgotten is essentially about having control over what stays online about yourself. It lets you ask for old or irrelevant information to be taken down from the internet, which is crucial for personal privacy, especially as we all grow over time. I think tech companies have a big say in this because they decide how long information stays online and how easy it is to find. Policies that support the right to be forgotten can help protect us from the long-term consequences of one-time mistakes

Footprint in digital background / Concept of digital footprint
Photo by enzozo on Adobe Stock

Our duty to assist students in creating a positive online presence

As I learned more about digital footprint, I found out that it comes in two types: passive and active. A passive digital footprint is unintentional, like data websites gather about your browsing habits. In contrast, an active digital footprint is created intentionally, such as when you post on social media, comment on blogs, or send emails. Understanding both types showed me how important it is to teach students about the consequences of their online actions—both negative and positive. A negative footprint can cause problems, but a positive one can really benefit a student’s future. It’s crucial for students to understand the full impact of their online presence. During a quick Google search, I found tools designed to track your digital footprint, like Saymine. Although I haven’t tried it myself, it seems useful for understanding your online presence. It might even be a valuable teaching tool for students to assess their own online presence.
Teaching with man holding a tablet computer
Photo by Tierney on Adobe Stock

As educators, I believe we should teach students about creating a positive digital footprint. We can help them build it while also letting them learn from mistakes. One of the examples we discussed in class was students getting expelled from universities for inappropriate social media comments. It saddened me that universities prioritize their image over students’ chances to learn and improve. It’s important to support students as they navigate the digital world and grow.

Overall, in today’s world, having a digital identity is unavoidable, so it’s crucial to ensure it is positive. After watching the TED talk and reading the news article, I’ve realized the importance of being mindful of our actions and words on social media, as well as the importance to teach our kids how to build a positive digital footprint. According to the Building and Keeping a Positive Digital Identity, adults should lead by example to teach students safe online habits. As educators, we must model these behavior and adapt our teaching methods to integrate new technologies and support both digital and real-world citizenship growth and engagement.


The Power of Digital Footprints

Dis-like: How Social Media Feeds into Perfectionism

Teaching Students about their Digital Footprint

2 thoughts on “Your Digital Identity: What Google Knows and Why It Matters

  1. Hi Mariia!
    This post is very interesting! Just thinking about what our digital footprint says about us is fascinating and scary at the same time, especially with companies like Google gathering so much data. Thank you for the reminder that what we post, who we interact with, and even what’s collected about us by companies shapes how others perceive us. I absolutely agree that our digital footprint really does matter along with how much impact our online presence can have. I appreciate your perspectives!

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