It was a really interesting conversation to participate in as someone who was on the internet as a teenager when the message was very much that you are going to be the victim of a sexual predator if you say anything about yourself or do anything on the internet. I didn’t listen. I engaged in chat rooms, met all sorts of people, even dated people I met on the internet (like my husband).
Through this process I’ve developed different personal digital identities. I was, to some extent, semi-anonymous. I didn’t just use my name for chatting or posting. I always had some sort of name that I used as a buffer between me and the internet. I was there for fun.
Eventually I started wanting to get involved in things in a professional capacity. I had to start building up who I was in a more professional capacity. There was a great post earlier on managing your digital identity for grad students and I think it really highlights the issues. The one thing I felt was really important was about taking ownership of how you appear online. This really is a big deal because we’ve all Googled someone at some point for some reason. If everything about you is from someone else’s perspective, even if it’s positive, you are not the one deciding who you are.
For me that has been important as I switch gears. I still retain some identity in my more personal capacity and it’s possible to find things I’ve written that have nothing to do with education (because I do freelance or free writing to do with weddings and wedding planning). I also do some creative things with my husband and that is really separate from my day job. It’s important and part of who I am, but I don’t want an instructor I am going to work with to find my fiction before they find out what I can do for them.
There wasn’t much about me before as an aspiring Religious Studies professor, but now that I am engaging in a different field, I want to make sure that I am defining myself in a way that makes sense. If someone happened to see something about me editing a religion-focused grad student journal or presenting at a conference, or even working at a library association, I want to make sure that I can point them to a place that is about who I am now.
I got a new Twitter account as @KirstenJHansen. I Closed up my Facebook privacy. I hit LinkedIn. And now I have a website under my own name. (Wondering why I include a middle initial? My name is super common in Scandanavian circles so it was just easier to distinguish this way.)
I know Jason Grayston has been thinking about this and others have mentioned certain aspects of it. When did you decide you needed to take control of how you appear digitally? What did you do? Do you keep aspects of your life separate?