A digital footprint is the traces you leave behind from your online activity. Everything you do online is findable. You are knowable. There are 2 segments to your digital footprint: 1) active footprint is the data created by what you voluntarily contribute to the web (e.g. Facebook posts, Tweets, blogs, pictures, videos, etc.), and 2) passive footprint is data collected by other organizations about your cookies and browsing history (Madden et al, 2007). There is also the digital footprint that you can’t totally control- data that others share about you.
The sad thing about our digital footprint is that it starts very early and stays with us. When we are young and stupid and don’t understand the implications of our behaviors we might post things on the web that are embarrassing, cruel, stupid, etc. When we mature we gain a sense of decorum that guides us not to publish these sorts of things. Unfortunately, the damage has been done. There are no take-backs on the web.
Thankfully for me, the web did not come along until I was mostly past my impetuous stage. I understood proper online behavior. I have crafted my footprint to portray the professional digital identity that I want.
To review my digital footprint I searched Google using “Terry Shaneyfelt” and “ebmteacher”. I had Googled myself before but never used the quotation marks and doing this did affect the results of my search. I mostly found what I expected: my blogs, my Twitter activity, my YouTube videos, my university information, etc. What I did find that was unexpected were links to my YouTube videos on a variety of medical school (and one nursing school) library sites. I knew my videos were being used by a few other places but didn’t realize that way more than I expected were using them. Since I am putting together my promotion package this was a welcome discovery. Thankfully I didn’t find anything bad but I sure something exists as I can’t control what students post about me or disgruntled patients. I also didn’t search the deep web.
In summary, my digital footprint is professional and reflects the digital identity that I want to portray. My footprints seem to be heading in the right direction.
Madden, M., Fox, S., Smith, A., & Vitak, J. (2007). Digital Footprints. PEW Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2007/Digital-Footprints.aspx
Note: image is in the public domain