5 Keys to Creating a Positive Digital Footprint

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Jared Fawson received his degree from the University of Utah in Social Studies and spent the first eight years working with at-risk students. He currently teaches World Geography and Student Government at West Point Junior High in Utah. He received the Teacher of the Year award from the Standard Examiner and Technology Teacher of the Year from the Davis School District.  He has presented at the Davis Technology Fair, UCET, and nationally at ISTE. In his class he uses technology in many ways including Skyping and collaborating with classrooms around the world.

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No matter how hard you try not to make an imprint, with each step you take you leave a footprint. In the digital world you create a digital footprint with every keystroke you make. In the world of devices and apps it is of utmost importance to keep this in mind whenever you get online, share a photo, send an email, tweet, voice your opinion on facebook, click the mouse, and make a keystroke.

Each of us has a digital presence. If I didn’t remove my muddy boots and walked across white carpet I would get myself in a lot of trouble and may make a mess that I couldn’t erase completely. Now hopefully none of us leave muddy footprints everywhere we go and we take of our shoes when they are dirty, that being said there are many people who do ‘muddy’ up their digital footprint by not realizing the impact and implications of their digital footprint.

I have a few thoughts on digital footprints. Before we get to them I think it is important to realize that each one of us that is using a device of any sort is making a digital footprint. There is no way around it. Sure some techies can get creative and cover up their steps, but even doing that makes an imprint of some sort. Knowing you are making a footprint is really the key to begin creating a positive digital print.

1. Take control of your digital footprint.

If everything we do online can be used either for or against us, make sure whatever you do is for the good. You have control over what you say, share, post, forward, like/dislike, etc… Social media can be a great way to share and connect with others no matter where they are, it can also be a place where people muddy up the floor.

You have control over your online image, cultivate it with care. Be smart in what you share, that includes opinions as much as images, for all of it has the potential to cause you embarrassment or much worse.

My personal rule is that if I wouldn’t share it with my grandparents then I shouldn’t post it. Believe me you will never regret not posting something, the same can’t be said once you click submit. Quite literally the world is watching, make sure you show them your best self. Post things that are uplifting and encouraging, that show you in a good light. Don’t be degrading, rude, condescending, vulgar, profane, etc… I know that most businesses search your name when you apply and see what comes up. Frankly I don’t know why they wouldn’t. Be smart about what you say about your job, your boss, your coworkers, they may not see it, but someone else will.

2. There is no such thing as private.

Just get that out of your head right now. This includes texts, tweets, emails, etc… Just assume everyone can see what you post. Sure you can set up a private account on social media and only allow certain people to see what you post, but just remember they can show others, they can copy/paste, they can screenshot, they can forward and share whatever you post.

Once it is out there you have no control over where it ends up. There are many sad cases of people who shared private information with friends and family only to end up losing control over whatever it is they posted. There are sadder cases of jobs lost, current and future, over things shared in private. Just keep in mind there is no such thing as private and you will save yourself any heartache.

3. You can never take it back.

Sure you can delete something and minimize the damage, but you can never take it back. Once posted you then lose control over where it ends up. Written words can be read over and over again. Be smart about what you say and to whom you say it, for you can’t take it back. Sarcasm and joking can be easily misunderstood over text, intentions can be misinterpreted when you aren’t there in person. Consider the grandparent rule before you post or share.

4. What you post is your resume.

I consider this blog my resume. I share ideas, thoughts, as well as successes. I tag each entry so that when my name is searched I have some control over what one can see about me. I also tag entries using the criteria that I am observed on so that I can give more proof than a quick 30 min observation. You want to impress your principal, tag your blog with the main criteria you are observed on, believe me they will be impressed. If I interview for a different position I definitely plan on using this blog for my benefit.

5. The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.

Don’t wait to take charge of your digital footprint. Start now. Make wise decisions about what you share and say, remember anything can be used for or against you. Share your successes. Keep a record of what you do well. We all are leaving an imprint with every keystroke, start to craft your online image. Take control of your digital footprint and begin creating a path that leads to success.

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