Having an online identity is something that has become second nature to most people across the world. Each day thousands of people are joining digital communities, making social media one of most prominent features in today’s modern society. Even looking at my own social interactions online I can see this: I have around 6 different social networking sites that I use, emphasising to me just how much social media is a part of our lives.
‘Digital identity’ is the term used to described ‘the persona a person projects’ across these communities (Williams et.al., 2010). People’s identities are shown through the expression of their interests and opinions; as well as their interactions with friends via social networking. Sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, provide a platform for people to showcase themselves, which is not always a good thing. This blog will outline the advantage and disadvantage of having an online identity in terms of how it can affect our reputation and employability.
Social media has not only changed the way that we interact with people around the world, but it has helped to shape the way we present ourselves to the world as well. Now-a-days it is very easy to give away person information about ourselves online and unintentionally create a negative persona and reputation. People don’t realise that the things they do online can manipulate how another person will perceive them, judging by your online activity. From being ‘tagged’ in a Facebook picture at a party to having a disagreement with someone online; these types of events create a picture of what you are like as a person and ultimately form your online identity.
As outlined in my previous blogposts, today’s society has been integrated into the world of digital technology. Because of this, our information is out there for anyone to see, and therefore many employers won’t hesitate to check up on employees through their online profiles – to basically get an idea of the type of person they are employing. A survey by Career Builder, found that 4 in 10 employers will discard a job seekers application after checking their Facebook page and are now using social networking sites to highlight any “digital dirt” (The Telegraph, 2010). This can be one of the disadvantages of having an online identity, as it can affect what an employer thinks about you as a person. I have seen first-hand how one Facebook post can result in job loss or a negative persona, created by online activity, can affect you actually getting a job.
YouTube Video: ‘Attention young professionals! What’s in your digital baggage?’
However, having an online identity can have its advantages. Today’s social networking sites have made it very easy to pick and choose what information you want displayed on your online profile and who you want to see it. In order to do this however, you need to know how. Madden and Smith (2010) stated that it is the young adults in today’s society that are more wary of what is posted about them online; with 71% of them customising their privacy settings, compared to the 33% of users aged 30-49 and the 25% of 50-64 year olds. This could be down to the fact that older generations don’t know how to do it or don’t see the importance of it. To me, privacy is one of the most important aspects to social networking and taking the necessary precautions to create a positive identity can have a profound effect, especially when seeking work. One social networking site called ‘LinkedIn’ allows you to create a professional profile and a ‘brand’ for potential employers. You can promote yourself in the most appealing way for your desired audience and keep your personal life separate (and private!) from your professional one.
Online identities can be great things for showcasing who we are as people. But without the ability to monitor what we post and show to others on social networking sites, digital identities can quickly have a negative influence on our lives.
The Telegraph. (January 2010). Half of employers ‘reject potential worker after look at Facebook page’. Retrieved from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/facebook/6968320/Half-of-employers-reject-potential-worker-after-look-at-Facebook-page.html
Madden, M. & Smith, A. (2010, May 26). Reputation Management and Social Media. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2010/05/26/reputation-management-and-social-media/
Williams, S. A., Fleming, S. C., Lundqvist, K. O., & Parslow, P. N. (2010). Understanding your digital identity. Learning Exchange, 1(1). Retrieved from http://centaur.reading.ac.uk/17011