This is me (in digital)

Last night during our regular EC&I831 course meeting, Alec Couros talked about digital citizenship and digital identity.

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?

10 thoughts on “This is me (in digital)”

  1. It’s strange going backwards through your past dealing on the internet and doing the housekeeping. It’s easy to sign up for this and than and even to comment in haste. Looking at my digital identity has made me want to do more online. As we discussed digital citizenship, I wonder that if we challenge ourselves to post positive and helpful content to the web if the percentage of good will rise over the percentage of questionable. I’ve never been one to post much and I find it difficult to share how I feel on the internet. Perhaps with practice I will be able to make a positive impact. Do you feel comfortable sharing information or thoughts with the masses?

    1. I totally agree that being a positive influence on the web is super important.

      I do feel fairly comfortable sharing things, but I also tend to carefully choose where I comment. There are some places I would never comment because I am not willing to even read the comments. One of the ways to make the internet nicer is to actually have comment policies and to moderate out the hurtful and unproductive comments. Some people hate that but you are more likely to build a community of supportive people if you do it. But if I kinda trust the situation (I comment on Chronicle of Higher Education frequently), I comment. I share my thoughts. But I was also the student who raised her hand in class a lot too. I’m always considering how I’d feel if someone from work or a family member saw a comment though. I try to keep my sharing within those bounds. I totally have urges to share beyond that sometimes but in that case I’d do it anonymously if possible, but never as myself. Sometimes we have things that are worthy of being in the conversation but we can’t always admit them. So that’s the place of anonymous commenting. And I have no problem with it, as long as someone is moderating to remove the troll-type comments or the ones who cross that line from discussion to nastiness. Or other negative forms.

  2. I am glad to have read your blog post tonight because I hope to discuss some similar topics in my blog entry this week. I never thought in-depth about my digital identity until I became a teacher. This ultimately is the same as when I became an official professional. I didn’t have much of a digital identity at that point besides a Facebook page. Now that I am in my fourth year of teaching my digital identity has changed, including having a blog (for our EC&I class), an about.me page, a Twitter and of course a Facebook page still.

    1. I totally understand what you mean. It was a bit of an odd shift for me. It does slowly get easier at least! It’s been two years since I started developing Kirsten Hansen as someone digital. I found that having good examples has helped a lot. Alec is great at being himself regardless of medium. Sue Waters is another one. Audrey Watters is another. She writes hackeducation.com.

  3. As you know, I’m all over the place. The only real change in the past year or two has been to tighten up Facebook security (as you mentioned) which has made that place more personal in some ways (which I think is good), and I’ve deactivated a bunch of old accounts just to keep track of where things are. I do need to do a bit more consolidation, that’s for sure, but I’m betting I get to cleaning my office first (something that is not likely to happen soon either). 🙂

    1. Doing some digital housekeeping once in a while is definitely good! I used to use physical cleaning to procrastinate but maybe now I should use the digital version! I’m pretty sure I have a few random accounts hanging around that should be closed properly. I can think of a couple email accounts for sure.

  4. Great post. It made me consider my digital identity, and I find myself in a slightly different situation. I was not very involved in social media before taking on my role as Technology Coach (I still don’t even have a Facebook account!) I made a conscious choice when creating new social media accounts to create them for professional use. Therefore, my digital identity is very much based on the “professional me”. I definitely need to work on developing a bit more balance in sharing the “personal me” as part of my digital identity.

    1. The nice thing about that, Dean, is you will have fewer digital identity crises! No need to ask who you are on which account! Sharing the personal side can feel a bit odd at first. I tend to share details with coworkers about what I do when not at work so I think of it like that. It can help to consider what you’d tell someone sitting next to you at work. Not everyone shares a ton and that’s okay. Sharing a few non-work things just helps people get to know you faster and feel a bit more connected. It’s why companies are encouraged to have real people run social media accounts. Easier to feel personally attached if you can tell there is a real person there than if it’s just a brand. So it serves a real purpose. Some people share songs they like, some mention hobbies, some pictures. It doesn’t have to be your innermost thoughts unless you want it to be. I try to share bits of my personality so if someone meets me after knowing me digitally first they would be able to say that I’m just like they expected. I have lots of practice being non-work me online (met my husband online) but finding the balance for professional me has been a bit different. I’ve worked hard to develop my personal blog-writing style, unlearning academic writing and relearning how to be more casual and sound like a conversation. It’s a work in progress.

      1. I agree with the idea of sharing bits of my life to allow for a more personal connection. I definitely recognize the people I am most drawn to follow in social media manage to reveal snippets about themselves, and it is these snippets that allow me to feel that I can relate to them on a personal level.

        1. The nice thing is that you don’t have to get super personal to give personality. Even just some responses to other people can help. Quick conversations can make a huge impact. Or sharing a cute video, a song, a fun pic.

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