I’ve been using social media for much longer than I have been a professional. MySpace started when I was in middle school – the beginning of my digital identity. But times were simpler and the biggest decision to be made was what to make my away message on AIM. Would it be too moody? Too silly? Not thought-provoking enough?
My digital presence has followed me through my most formative years, so now as I start my new journey into the adult side of academia I need to learn how I can use the digital world to my advantage and minimize the disadvantages of it.
In trying to understand this balance, I began thinking of digital personality like the bumper of a car. It exists, and it is going to say something about you, but it can be customized . . . and is a great place for oversharing. Some things are unavoidable – a parking permit sticker for the faculty lot gives away my job and my employer, but I’m not willing to walk to work for that privacy. Some things are helpful – a window decal for a local businessperson provides free advertising and name recognition around town. Some things are simply unnecessary – knowing that you Keep up with the Kardashians, or that you rescued a dog, or who you voted for in 1988 has no impact on me as I sit behind you in traffic. If I disagree with you I certainly won’t run you over or roll down the window with “You should try Real Housewives of Orange County, much better than the Kardashians!” And if I agree, will either of us get to our destination faster?
But the digital world wasn’t built only for necessity. It was built to connect people. This is the struggle of forming a digital personality that encompasses personal and professional, future and past, individual and group. If we share nothing (except for maybe a headshot and bio on the department webpage), we are unable to find people who we like or who we can work with, dissemination of our work is limited and building a recognizable portfolio is difficult. If we overshare, we are stuck with those choices/opinions and the preconceived notions that come along with them in front of everyone that we could possibly come into contact with.
Being stickerless (like my real car) doesn’t seem like an option. So how can I choose the right stickers to show my personal side and my professional goals?
That’s why I’m excited for DigPINS.
Because much like cars, the digital world will not be going away any time soon (and even if they do, people will find other places to start putting stickers. . .)