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Digital Footprint 101

99% of us have Googled ourselves before. The other 1% of us use Yahoo…

What comes up when you Google yourself? Maybe some tags, photos, videos, social media accounts. Whatever you find comes up in the search – that’s your online reputation or your digital footprint. In simple terms, your digital footprint is the online representation of who you are for others that are seeking to learn more about you.

With all of your interactions online being recorded and building your digital footprint, it is important to understand how permanent the internet can be and use that knowledge to help you choose and control what you leave online for others to find.

Some people think “Who cares what’s online about me”, but the truth is, a lot of people do. On average, more people will engage with you online than in-person on a daily basis. The way we portray ourselves online towards others will affect how they perceive you as an individual along with whether or not they wish to engage with you long term.

For better-or-worse, our online reputation has been proven to affect both our relationships and career, two of the largest areas of our lives.

Relationships: Over 70% of people find that they are inclined to further research a person of interest online after meeting them in-person for the first time. The majority of this group claimed that they would not see the person of interest again if they found their online investigation uncovered unappealing material.

Career: According to Linkedin (the largest online recruitment company in the world), over 80% of Employers and Universities when undergoing the hiring/admissions phase, will search for applicant names on Google, along with a minimum of two social media platforms as selection protocol before the interview stage commences.

When recruiters search your name online, what comes up? Are they left thinking; “This person looks good for the job” or “This person does not represent our company values.”

The early-stages of a lot of modern relationships, careers and university admissions, are all based on whether or not an individual has a good online reputation.

So what should we do?

Cleaning up your digital footprint

If you feel that your digital footprint does not reflect your best qualities, it is comforting to know that there are steps you can take to clean up your digital footprint (and improve your reputation). For practical advice on cleaning a digital footprint, read the ABC News article Protecting your children from their digital footprint.

To learn more about digital footprints, read the Scan journal article Expert insights into education for positive digital footprint development.

Some quick tips to keep your digital footprint clean and organised:

– Set your social accounts to a private setting

– Keep it positive (do not participate in negative conversation, bullying or sensitive topics)

– Untag yourself from unwanted online content, inform associated tagger to remove tag or contact e-safety to pursue the matter on your behalf

The Office of the eSafety Commission has a guide to digital reputation and teaching resources for discussing digital reputation with your children.

Your online reputation is important and if you focus on keeping your online presence positive and well-managed, you will set yourself up for a long term win.

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About Author

Jonny has spent the last 10 years in youth work, speaking and interviewing counsellors on best practices.

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