DIGITAL footprint is the information about a particular person that exists on the internet as a result of their online activity. In other words, everything you do on the internet, the photos and videos you post on the internet, the discussion and debate you get yourself involved in, and every other thing as long as you are existing on the internet every day will leave a digital footprint for anyone and many people to see. One’s digital footprint can be accessed and retrieved from social media, news blog, sites that have one’s pictures and videos one shares on those sites and from one’s tweets. There are several ways to ensure your digital footprint does not damage your reputation, or any future employment opportunities. Firstly, do not share nor say stuff on the internet that is potentially damaging to your reputation and future employment opportunities. I’m not writing that you should stop sharing your nudes or those vile comments on people’s posts, I’m simply writing for you to know that these things stay on the internet and some people might save them in their archives just to use them against you in the future.
It is high time you started imagining those posts and comments resurfacing on the internet two or three years later, would you be happy you shared them online? Would you be comfortable with them? Secondly, do a Google search of your name and see what it brings out about you. Or perhaps go through all your social media activities in the past years. Do as much cleansing as possible as you can. Hide some information that does not sit well with you, delete information or posts you would not like to be associated with, delete some tweets or posts that you now find embarrassing, disgusting and demeaning. There is nothing bad with you feeling embarrassed; you have simply grown. You have got to understand that as you grow academically and professionally, you are becoming a brand and it is highly important to protect your reputation. Besides, the things you do or share online now matter or will matter later to some people around you, family, friends and employers alike.
Most companies, even startups and graduate schools, now conduct some online checks on their potential employees and students to know what they have been up to, what they spend their time doing or sharing online and, most especially, what people are saying about them. As much as it is becoming increasingly hard for them to contact people who know you offline and ask them some personal questions about you, the internet has made it less hard or easy for them to do that through your digital footprint. Thirdly, let your online activities, as much as you can, communicate what you do, your values, and your experiences. This is not for everyone. Some persons are not comfortable sharing what they do online or talk about their values and experiences. Discretion is key. You must know what works for you. It depends on where you currently are, and whether you want people online to know you are there and capable, where you are going to be, and whether you want people to know what steps you can take to quickly get there or for people to easily find and connect with you on bigger things. It depends. It depends.
In conclusion, always do a routine check on your social media activities and sieve what is good for your potential employers from what will be potentially damaging to your reputation, and start deleting what you will be so ashamed of in the near future. As I’ve always told my students, before you share something online, your picture, videos, comments or tweets, always ask yourself these three questions: 1. Who am I? 2. Why am I sharing this? 3. And in the future, will I be comfortable with them? It is, therefore, pertinent you answer these questions before sharing any post online. Your digital footprint and personal branding are now two sides of the same coin; they are inseparable.
- Ikuerowo writes in from the University of Ibadan.
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