Protecting yourself from your digital footprint

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My mother works in HR. As such I am reminded often that my digital footprint may come back to haunt me in ways I can’t possibly foresee. It is not at all hard to find out an awful lot about me just by Googling, and having spent the past decade on forums and running mostly online businesses there is a fair bit to be found. It’s common practice to search a person’s online history, along with their referees in the application process these days, and whilst I think I could still make a pretty good impression during an interview, I would be shattered if my digital footprint were to destroy that for me.

So I try to keep my behaviour nice.

I don’t swear often online and when I do it is generally merited. I choose my words carefully and try to be aware of the impact that those words can have. I have no issue with others swearing online; that is their prerogative and it takes an awful lot to shock this truckie’s wife, but it mostly isn’t for me.

That does not mean I am not opinionated, or that I am spineless. I have strongly held views on any number of topics and I’m not afraid to articulate them. I am however, conscious that those views and how I present them, will tell the interwebs a lot about me, and those impressions will form their concept of who I am, regardless of how accurate they are.

There are any number of smart, opinionated, professional women who create discussion whilst keeping themselves nice. It is not a passive, or trite niceness that they possess, but an ability to engage in a respectful and thoughtful manner. If you tweet them, they tweet back. If you disagree with them, it is a robust debate rather than a gloves off smack down. They are clever, engaged women who inspire with their actions.

I do believe there is a place for the all out I-don’t-care-what-you-think-of-me aggravation that some people possess online. Passion and aggression can serve to fire up arguments in a way that pleasantry cannot. I enjoy reading it (particularly feminist debate) and I often use it to better understand some of the issues of the day. But personally, my skin is not thick enough to engage in that sort of debate myself.

If this makes me a bit boring then so be it. I would prefer to have an impassioned argument with someone who knows that our differing views do not impact on our friendship, rather than feel I need to resort to name-calling to make a point.

I believe that it is entirely possible to be an opinionated, passionate woman whilst still keeping myself nice online. I hope so anyway.

Kate Young writes a personal blog at Kate Says Stuff where she shares her adventures in parenting four children; two on the autism spectrum, and the discovery that running is actually fun. You can find Kate on Twitter and Facebook when she's not out chasing the sun.

Comments

  1. says

    If this works for you, good for you. This is obviously is the sort of person you are, and that’s just fine – of course. I don’t think less of others who don’t want to stand up and shout about things or who want to stay nice. I have several very nice friends. I shake my head sometimes in despair at them, as I am sure they do at me.

    I do think less of people who try to reign others in and try, by dint of emotional blackmail or playing the “let’s be respectful” card to silence or modify others. People who try to censor the expression of others anger me a great deal. Anyone who does that is likely to ensure that I turn the volume right up and go for broke.

    That is NOT a dig – in any way. I am NOT saying you are doing this here. Just pointing out that sometimes people who want to be nice want to decide what others get to say too. And that’s not on.

    My digital footprint worries me not one jot. Every bit of it is me. I have, actually, thought what I would say if a reporter shoved a camera in my face and asked me to comment on something I had said online. I reckon I would shrug, smile and say “Yep, that was me alright. Have a good one.” And people who meet me, bosses, co-workers, friends, passers by, meet the same person as they do online anyway. I strive to always be my authentic self, whatever self that is today. The only place I alter my behaviours, sometimes deliberately but mostly instinctually, is around children. I don’t (usually) swear around children, I don’t swear in a school setting, I make myself less threatening and generally “nicer”. I don’t know if I can justify that or not, it’s just what I do. Children bring out the “nice” in me. Maybe it’s because there was so little gentleness or kindness around me as a child.

    We are all what we are. Nice, less nice, loud, angry, opinionated, whatever. Just be your own authentic self and let everyone else be theirs. As far as I have been able to make out, you do. So good luck to you :)

  2. says

    I admit outright that I am spineless . I keep my opinions silence not for fear of my digital footprint but because my skin is not as thick ! and my brain not as quick to counter passionate debate.
    I am always interested though in respectful discussions.

    • says

      I hoe you don’t mind me butting in and saying, imo that’s not spineless. Spineless would be speaking your opinions and then getting huffy and squealing about being attacked if others disagreed with you. There are times I have not commented on something because I could not face the possible vitriol that would come with it either. You know your limits, there is nothing wrong with that.

  3. says

    I agree with you Kate. I have very strong opinions, and I am not ashamed of them, even though I know many of them are not socially acceptable. But I do think it is possible for me to convey them, while still being pleasant. I think you can be respectful, and kind and still disagree with others. I think authenticity is the key.

  4. says

    Generally, online, if I can’t say something nice, I say nothing at all. If I do disagree, I try to play nice, but it doesn’t stop people from misconstruing my intent.

    I’m not always like that in person, but I am definitely mellowing with age.

  5. says

    Great post Kate. I regret one or two of the things I’ve said on my blog. Never malicious I’m referring more to over share about myself. I’ve come to realise that I want to hold a little bit of me back for me.

  6. says

    My favourite line – “If this makes me a bit boring then so be it. I would prefer to have an impassioned argument with someone who knows that our differing views do not impact on our friendship, rather than feel I need to resort to name-calling to make a point.”

    Love it.

  7. says

    you make your point quietly and reasonable, that’s worth a lot.
    i think part of it is also simply being a grown-up?
    when you are a teen, you think that YOUR opinion needs to be out there, must be heard, and will be screamed if necessary. whatever you are passionate about – other people HAVE to care. when have lived a little, you realize, people have different paths in life, different voices and also manifest their passion in different ways, this does not mean their opinions are less meaningful, strong and important. but if we all scream, no words will be heard.
    I find the internet often exhausting, I mean discussions on things that I actually care about, because this simple rule of conversation is widely disregarded by SO SO many.

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