1. How might your digital footprint affect your future opportunities? Give at least two examples.
My digital footprint may affect my future opportunities because it is impossible to completely remove what I might have posted, commented, or liked. Employers and universities may search for me to affirm that I am suitable for the position I am seeking. If they discover that I have made a potentially damaging impact on others online, posted items that are inappropriate and unprofessional, or have created a negative digital footprint overall, they may feel compelled to pass the opportunity to someone else.
Moreover, if too much personal information is linked to my digital footprint, anyone can potentially discover private information about me and threaten or blackmail me with it. Because of this, I may be pushed to say, do, or post something that may harm me, my community, and the people around me. This can permanently damage my future prospects.
Lastly, if I am well-known for my negative digital footprint, I may experience difficulties communicating and connecting with other people online as well as in person. This is because people generally prefer to avoid others who may potentially be involved in illegal, dramatic, and hurtful situations. On the other hand, if I have a positive digital footprint, I will likely have increased opportunities for everything from job and university applications to making new friends. The people in my community will think of me as a dependable, kind, and responsible citizen.
2. Describe at least three strategies that you can use to keep your digital footprint appropriate and safe.
Strategies to keep my digital footprint appropriate and safe include thinking before posting, keeping track of all of my accounts, utilizing the most relevant settings for me, and being conscious and aware of my impact on others. First of all, it is crucial to be mindful that everything I post and share on the internet will represent how others see me online. As a result, every time I feel the urge to send something, I should ensure that it is something worth sharing by asking myself the following questions: is true, hurtful, illegal, necessary, and kind?
Furthermore, I should take care to not overshare and to pay attention to how what I post will affect me and the people around me. Oversharing is currently commonly seen on the internet, especially on social media apps such as Instagram, where many users have a second or “spam” account where they post multiple times a week if not daily. These posts often give insight into one’s day-to-day lives, including what they do outside of school, where they go to eat, and so on. This could potentially give someone I am unfamiliar with a lot of information I wouldn’t want them to know, which is why it is important to be mindful of all of my accounts.
However, oversharing is not only routinely seen on so-called “spam” accounts. Social media users also often overshare on their stories, a feature in most modern social media apps such as Facebook, Youtube, Snapchat, and Instagram, where users can post content such as images and videos in a slideshow format. Although stories are generally available for only 24 hours after the time of posting, they, like everything else on the internet, are never truly gone. Because of this, I should be cognizant of the people following me, particularly due to the presence of location sharing in apps like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram.
In Facebook, location features such as Nearby Friends and Find Wi-Fi are available to enhance the user experience. In March of 2018, an article was published which stated that third-parties were buying user data, such as a user’s friends and contacts and even their place of residence, from Facebook. According to the New York Times, the data “contained enough information that the company could match users to other records and build psychographic profiles.” Even more frightening, if that were possible, is the prospect that Facebook’s messenger app tracks the location of every single text. With certain extensions or apps, you can view the location of any user you are in a chat with. This includes group chats, meaning that you can see data of people you are not even friends with.
Meanwhile, on Snapchat, services like Snap Map, which enables you to share your location with your friends, Geofilters, which tailor the filters available to you depending on your location, and the ability to share or request the locations of your friends through Chat are very popular. Although these features appear to be quite harmless, the Snap Map service on Snapchat is able to disclose the activities you are doing. This is because Snapchat not only tracks your location, but also the time of day, your altitude, the presence of headphones plugged in your phone, and your speed of travel. If Ghost Mode is not turned on, then Snapchat, like Facebook, can use your information and even sell data to outside parties.
Lastly, Instagram tracks specific data about users based on where they post images, even if they don’t use the Geotag feature, which shows your followers where a certain image was taken. As a result, anyone can view the place an image was posted on a map, even if the user’s profile is set to private. Since most users tend to post images while at home or at work, this feature can potentially provide a variety of dangerous information. Like with Facebook, there are also a multitude of apps and extensions which gather this information to create a detailed map showing the locations of a user from the time they first created their Instagram account. In order to prevent these social media apps from tracking my location, I will need to be informed of the different privacy settings available to me in each app. As a global citizen who utilizes the internet, it is my responsibility to be mindful of the impact and consequences my actions have on others, especially on my friends, peers, and others following me on social media.
3. If you could go back in time, is there anything you would do differently online? Think of what type of advice you would pass on to your younger self or other students. How could you go about explaining it to them?
If I could go back in time, there wouldn’t be anything that I would do differently online, because I have never spent extended periods of time on social media. I have always been much more interested in connecting with people in-person, and the people I did communicate with online were people I knew and felt comfortable with. I have never posted anything on social media with my face in it, and I have never shared any private information with people I am not familiar with. I believe that I currently have and maintain a positive digital footprint which reflects who I am.
However, if I could give any advice to other students, it would be about how what you share can influence yourself, the people around you, and your community. I would spread awareness to cyberbullying, as well as how to protect yourself when you are using the internet. I will accentuate the importance of taking care of your digital footprint and review the key points at the end of my presentation. I will also make sure to provide relevant analogies to ensure that the content I am sharing is clearly understood, as well as making time to answer any questions students may have.
Although the internet and social media are useful tools, it is crucial to be mindful that tools can become weapons if not utilized correctly. By spreading awareness to the potential dangers and downsides to social media, I can do my part in ensuring that the internet can become a better, safer, and healthier community.