Digital Footprints: The mark you leave on the sands of the cyber universe


Imagine this, you are a 12 year old in 1960, riding your bicycle in your neighborhood and you accidentally run over your neighbor’s kitten. You feel terrible and your local newspaper publishes details of the accident. One year later, nobody remembers you, the bicycle, or the cat. You graduate from Harvard and become a professor. Fast forward 59 years, its 2019, and you are the same 12 year old. The online version of the local newspaper publishes the same news. Fast forward again, its 2032, you have just graduated from Harvard and are applying for your first job as a professor. Your interviewer now asks you about the cat you maimed 20 years ago and turns you down. That is a negative digital footprint.

You might be wondering, what is a digital footprint? A digital footprint is a traceable record of someone’s digital activity. Within the category of digital footprints, there are four main sub-categories. The first two are positive and negative digital footprints. A positive digital footprint benefits you and a negative digital footprint has serious consequences. Within both positive and negative digital footprints there are active and passive digital footprints. Active digital footprints are intended. For example, creating a blog would be an active digital footprint. Passive digital footprints are unintentional. For example, an email would be an example of a passive digital footprint.

Germany Kent, a journalist who is regarded as a social media etiquette expert, once said, “In this day and age, the digital age, you can forget about your resume; you are what your social media says about you” This quote really shows just how important having a positive digital footprint is and that brings us to the next topic, what are the benefits of a positive digital footprint?

A positive digital footprint brings two main benefits. The first is, better chances of getting a job. A rising number of employers will view your digital footprint; a positive one will greatly increase your chance of getting the job. The second is, better chances of going to college. As with employers, a rising number of universities are viewing digital footprints; a positive one will allow you to gain an edge on the competition. Another benefit is, you will be viewed as a positive person and someone people can trust. In a way, your digital footprint is like your credit score. A positive digital footprint and a high credit score will both allow people to trust you.

This brings us to the consequences of a negative digital footprint. We found four main consequences of a negative digital footprint. The first is, being unable to get a job. If an employer were to stumble across hundreds of posts of you partying and drinking all night, you will most not likely not be hired. The second is, a rejected college application. If a sports university found a video of you yelling profanity and mocking the other team, even if you were the best player, they will most likely choose another person to fill the spot.

So far you have learnt all about digital footprints themselves, now you are going to learn how you can form a positive one. The first step is to look yourself up online. This will allow you to fully understand what you have done in the past. If there is no results, even with a refined search, that is great! (It would be better if you had positive things, but you can develop those later.) The next step is to add some privacy. To do this, make sure any accounts you have are set to private, unless there is a good reason not to do so. Once you have completed this step, the final step is to think before you post. To do this you must be careful of posting things such as where you live or your mother’s maiden name (commonly used to verify credit card users).

Now that you know all about digital footprints, you might want to hear an opinion on it. We asked a language arts and social studies teacher (Mrs. Lee) a few questions. The first question was, do you know what a digital footprint is? Her answer was, “A digital footprint is figurative footprint you leave of the sands of the cyber universe. It is a traceable record of your digital actions.” This quote shows how more people are becoming aware of digital footprints and their actions online. The second question was, what are the consequences of a negative digital footprint and the benefits of a positive one. Her response was as follows. “The consequences of a negative digital footprint is the inability to go to college or get a job. Many employers and universities will look at your digital footprint. If it is negative, they will not hire you. The benefits of a positive digital footprint are the flip side. Positive digital footprints allow you to get a job and go to college.” This quote shows how a digital footprint can affect your entire life.  The third question was, how do you think you would be able to gain a positive digital footprint? Her answer was, “To gain a positive digital footprint, you have to think before you post. This will allow you to reap the benefits of a positive digital footprint.” This quote covers the main idea to keeping a positive digital footprint, thinking before you post.

Essentially, digital footprints are records of your digital activity. There are serious consequences for a negative one and great benefits for a positive one. Creating a positive one will allow you to succeed in life both in your professional and personal lives.


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Title-Managing Your Digital Footprint: Think Before You Post