In my Intro to Sociology course I teach students about the way in which the perceptions of others shape our various selves. For our friends we are one person, another person with our parents, another person with our spouse, and so on. This week’s topic, Digital Identity, got my wheels spinning and got me thinking about who exactly we are online and how we present various selves depending on our audience. There was a rather interesting quote in the Pasquini reading that stated “as your online self is your real, off-line self”. I would argue much differently. If you look through the comments of any gossip website you’ll see various inappropriate comments from people who feel a sense of freedom and power and express themselves much differently than they would in real life. If you look on facebook or instagram you find people promoting a lifestyle, relationship, etc. that they want you to believe that they have. So it leads me to question how real are our digital identities, especially when it comes to professional digital identities. How much are we censoring, how much are we revising and editing before we hit submit on a post, how much are we being shaped by our audience and how we want them to perceive us??
The reading also talked about the stakes being high, addiction of social media, and how our online presence is evaluated online. I would argue that as professionals we are much more aware of how high the stakes are and how responsible we have to be with our digital identity than a teen or an individual in their early 20s. I am extremely grateful that social media didn’t really exist when I was in college — a time when students are supposed to have tons of fun and not worry about a picture being posted that can haunt you forever, especially professionally!!! I digress…
All this to say, I have thought a lot about my digital identity over the past five years or so. There was a time when I was very active on instagram and twitter. Then, as the article mentioned, I realized how addictive it was and how much time I was wasting and how meaningless feedback or reactions could dictate my emotions for the day. So, professionally, I struggle with having a digital identity and not falling back down the rabbit hole because it is extremely hard to separate the two….
I also wonder, is having a digital identity really necessary? For whom? How important will it be when I go up for tenure and are those who are evaluating my tenure portfolio taking my digital identity seriously or are they scoffing at my online presence and thinking I could have spent my time doing something more productive???