Web Presence Definition
I am a wife, mother of 6, grandmother to 8, friend to 800+ people on FB, student/scholar, teacher, disciple, and owner of several small businesses. With all of these different hats, my digital footprint is wide and as a result, so is my web presence. Because I am a public high school teacher, I am always conscious of the appropriateness of my digital interactions: my posts, photos, searches… In addition, the computer that I use is a school computer and more so the concern that it never be used for anything inappropriate (I have a teenage son). What if a student searches me? What if a parent sees a post I made? Besides my caution regarding my online reputation, I am also aware of the huge marketing potential of the Web for my small businesses. How easy is it to come across my Airbnb website? Am I tagging all the very best posts, reviews, and photos? However, until recently I have not given much thought to how even the most innocent searches could look if they turn up out of context. These footprints we leave behind us are a big part of our web presence.
The prescribed video by the Internet Society (2016), “4 Reasons to Care About Your Digital Footprint,” describes one’s digital footprint as the traces we leave behind when we use the Internet. On her blog about digital footprints, Kristina Erickson (2018) calls them information that is passively and actively shared by you and “information that’s created through your activities and communication online” (para. 9). In fact, in paragraph 19 of her blog, Ms. Erickson (2018) uses the term web presence in the same context as digital footprints. Whether the two terms share a different definition appears to be a matter of opinion as they have been used interchangeably on several sites I searched.
Managing Your Public and Private Web Presence
The internet is full of advice for how to manage your business web presence. For the most part, I do not separate my business from my personal accounts. My life is an open book… Forbes has dozens of sites one can visit to learn how to better utilize social media for marketing, to include keeping your website current, tagging, and blogging meaningful and relevant posts. Honestly, I lost steam on Instagram recently after a disappointment. I went through all my photos and added a bunch of hashtags to each. My following went up by 20-30 and then subsequently nose-dived to previous lows. I learned that the social media crowd is a fickle bunch. I do think I could get a handle on it, but it will be a huge investment in time that I do not currently have.
Can I manage my private spaces? From what I have read in my research over the past couple of days, apparently I am not doing a very good job and have been lucky so far. I looked at one article about how a company called Medium uses our data from Facebook and another aboout how we have shadow contact information that is also being shared. I also Googled myself and all that comes up is my FaceBook pages and my business. That’s all okay with me, but I am worried about what I cannot see. As I quipped above, my life IS an open book. I intentionally live my life this way, so that I do truly have nothing to hide. I want to avoid all appearances of impropriety, so living my life in the open seems a good way to do that. Except… I do wonder sometimes if my openness about my religious beliefs online might put me under a microscope with my employers, but I am careful to never bring it into my classroom. I will be making some attempts to tweak my online presence; creating/reinforcing private spaces and strengthening security.
Kristina Erickson (2018) suggests the following steps to manage your information online:
- Google yourself: Take inventory of what’s out there. Search for your name every few months, so you’re cognizant of the information others have access to.
- Set up Google alerts: Hanif recommends setting up a Google alert for your name. The tool will then send you occasional alerts of every post that has your name on it.
- Protect your personal data: Don’t disclose your personal address, phone number, passwords or bank card numbers. Consider using a nickname instead of your real name.
- Keep login info under lock and key: Never share any of your usernames or passwords with anyone.
- Think before you post: Never put a temporary emotion on the permanent internet. Anger is temporary; online lasts forever. Pause before you post: Think twice, post once, advises Sue Scheff, online defamation survivor and author of Shame Nation.
- Nix the pics: Any photo you post could be dug up some day. Limit your sharing of questionable images. Fifteen minutes of humor is never worth a lifetime of potential humiliation, adds Scheff. (para. 16)
How to Address the Topic of Web Presence with High School Students
Teaching students about their web presence has been extraordinarily overlooked in all of the places where I have taught. When I took my digital citizenship class this summer, I was stunned by how much I didn’t know. All of the English classes in my building do a digital citizenship lesson, but we are barely scratching the surface. Digital citizenship teaches students many aspects of building and maintaining a safe and responsible web presence. I wrote a blog about this topic this past summer which I attached below.
Erickson, K. (2018, May 16). Your Digital Footprint: What Is It and How Can You Manage It? [Web log post]. Retrieved October 2, 2018, from https://www.rasmussen.edu/student-life/blogs/college-life/what-is-digital-footprint/
[Internet Society]. (2016, January 12). Retrieved October 03, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ro_LlRg8rGg&feature=youtu.be