Week 2 of the Metaliteracy course is entitled “Creating and Sharing a Social Identity” and after the enjoyable first week’s materials, I was looking forward to seeing what nuances would crop up this week. The video for the week was a short animated feature showing a young woman interviewing for a job, and while the interview went well, the hiring manager googled her after the interview to see what her online presence looked like. The hiring manager found no LinkedIn account, found a recent tweet she posted saying she “nailed the interview”, and some old tweets complaining about her job, and about hating people and her boss. So the hiring manager moved on. The “lesson learned”, as intended, is that people should think about the persona they project online and the impact it can have on your professional life.
And as I went through the week’s readings, and other materials, I seriously hoped that there was going to be more to the week’s offerings than a 1970s-style guidance counselor advising young girls to watch their image (don’t worry, there is more than that!). A hiring manager who was more up to date in their thinking could just have easily seen her lack of a LinkedIn profile as innovative (not doing the same as everyone else, particularly if she’s active on another platform) and there are those who view LinkedIn as old and stodgy. Equally, the tweet saying “Nailed It” could just as easily be seen as a positive sign, projecting confidence and a strong desire to work there. And finally, the tweets about the old place she worked? Not ideal necessarily, but it explains why she’s looking for a new job that is better suited to what she wants to do. I might tend to agree that posting negative things about your work or boss aren’t the best idea on Twitter, but I wouldn’t feel the same about sharing thoughts on Facebook with a smaller circle of friends and coworkers with strong privacy settings. The whole video completely seemed too simplistic and one-dimensional. More like an “after school special” designed by my grandmother.
In the readings, one of the first ones starts with seeing what you can find out about yourself online i.e. Go Google Yourself! The article is public, https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/how-to-google-yourself-effectivelywhat-to-do-about-it/23035, and quite interesting, albeit eight years old. I share the same name as an US politician, so almost all of Google is dominated by his stuff. If you append my city after my name, my twitter feed comes up as the first link. A couple of comments on FB pages and an old comment on a newspaper site show up too. But you are almost to the end of the first page before you see a link to this website, and even then it is just because I have a subarea devoted to an old HR conference that I helped host, and the pages include all the organizers’ names, including mine. My website domain is obviously NOT my personal name, just the PolyWogg nickname and I don’t list my name on it too widely, for a couple of reasons.
First and foremost, it’s not really needed. I don’t hide it, but I don’t see any reason to shout out my full name either and attract spam. Second, I had a bad experience once where someone disagreed with something I said in a discussion forum online about the public service, and her way of trying to “shut me down” was to post my home phone number and address in the forum, along with my work info. It didn’t stop me from pointing out the fallacies in her approach and people laughing her out of the room so to speak, but I also don’t need crackpots looking me up in the phonebook either.
Third, sometimes when I’m blogging, I talk about thing related to being a public servant, and while I don’t think anything I say gets me in any dangerous areas for my duty of loyalty to the government (in fact, I’m more often defending something by explaining it, not attacking), some parts of the legal test are how identifiable the link is between you personally and your position within the government. Since I don’t actively advertise my name, just my PolyWogg nickname, it’s a partial link that is broken. Of course, anyone with a WHOIS capability can look up who the domain is registered to, so I’m not trying to be anonymous. But I’m not actively advertising either.
I found the second article (https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/apr/19/online-identity-authenticity-anonymity) debating anonymity and authenticity both off-base six years after it was written and eerily prescient in some of the quotes about the tension between those who want to stamp out anonymity to kill the trolls vs those who deny authenticity is even possible (i.e., that FB and Instagram feeds are NOT real life but rather a cross between a censored version that is usually more positive than reality or a wishful thinking world of what you want your life to be like now).
The third article from 2013 (https://gizmodo.com/how-to-erase-yourself-from-the-internet-1456270634) talks about killing your Google+, FB, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts to get rid of a large part of your online presence, but as I said, I have three of those, and my search didn’t even turn those ones up, other than Twitter. And the site that knows the most about me right now? Amazon, hands down.
The second half of the week is focused more on privacy and protecting one’s data, and the readings aren’t bad (a bit paranoid in some places, but not bad). https://www.privacyrights.org/consumer-guides/online-privacy-using-internet-safely has some online guides written for newbies.
For the assignment / discussion for the week, the focus was on:
- writing a short biography of yourself from your googling (I talked about my dual identity, once under my own name and once as PolyWogg);
- reviewing the privacy policies of a social media platform and the implications for you (I did Twitter); and,
- looking at a poverty project that shared rather stark photos of people in Troy New York that went viral and which received a lot of backlash (https://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Churchill-An-unflattering-portrait-of-poverty-in-5649292.php).
Overall, not a bad week. But I don’t know that I feel any more “empowered” in my metaliteracy for considering whether your online persona is really, well, you?