Once information about us is shared online it becomes part of what others know or can find out about us. In addition, someone’s information footprint isn’t just the information about them that exists in digital form; it encompasses everything that every other person, entity, or database knows about them.
Online activities are becoming an ever more integral part of our everyday lives and identities. All this can be used by others to make decisions about us. For example, many employers, and even some colleges, will review a potential employee or student’s social-media content before hiring or accepting them. Many people use the same method to check out a potential date. Connection between contexts is not unique to the Internet; similarly, our school or work lives are connected to our social lives, and we can be judged in one context for how we behave in the other. However, the way information persists and is replicated on the Internet adds a new dimension.
Your defense against unfair use of your digital footprint is to apply all the principles we have discussed these past weeks. This week I am assigning homework. Think about answers to these questions.
- Do you need to be online to communicate with certain people? To get certain things done?
- What would your grandmother think if she saw your last Facebook post? Your last Instagram post?
- If you were applying for a job and the employer looked up your social-networking accounts, what would they think of what they found?
- Can you get kicked out of school or lose your job because of something you say or do online? Because of something someone else says about you online?
- How can your current state of mind affect what you post?
- How is having a fight with a friend online similar to and different from having a fight in person?
- Can you be mad in person about something someone said online?
- Is the way you present yourself on the Internet part of who you really are? How about the way you present yourself at school? When hanging out with your friends?
- Does what happens on the Internet stay on the Internet?