Your Internet Costume

Happy Halloween! This Halloween post may not be as gory as last year’s Halloween blog post, but the issue of one’s internet identity (real, imagined, or embellished) seems like a good fit on a day of costumes and mischief.

First, check out On the Internet, I am a Ballerina, from the Texas Wesleyan Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. I would like to take this moment to assure you that no matter what you find about me on the internet, in real life I am a ballerina. And a professional chef. And an award-winning undersea photographer. Kidding. Or not. Trick or treat, right? In all seriousness, the post above has some great tips and resources that you might share with your students to help them manage their digital identities – an increasingly important concern for those seeking employment or graduate school admission.

However, it’s not just about the students. I know a faculty member who had a prospective department Google his name, find his wedding registry from several years prior, skim the registry for the information the registrants had listed about themselves, click on the link to the bride’s travel blog, and then spend some time reading the blog. All’s well that ends well: the blog was fairly innocuous, the applicant did get a job offer from said department, and life has proceeded swimmingly. But the eerie part about the whole scenario? All this happened when the faculty member was in a heightened state of awareness about his digital identity and privacy. How about those of us a few years distant from the job market? I know I’m not as a vigilant as I once was. Or how about those of us who found our jobs years before this was such a concern? Perhaps it’s time to give the above link and embedded resources a peek. For a faculty-specific take on this, Notre Dame’s Kaneb Center has a great piece on your online persona as a faculty member. ProfHacker has also covered the subject of creating and maintaining a professional presence online.

If you’re a Twitter user, here is some specific insight on managing your academic Twitter identity.

If you’re a Facebook user, you might find this short independent video about Facebook and your internet identity interesting:

If you’re a believer in the whole the-best-defense-is-a-good-offense strategy, this is a nice summary of what you might want to put on your faculty website. If you’ve already set up a website, the suggestions can serve as a good checklist. In addition to helping you control your own digital identity, a good faculty website can help your students, colleagues, and interested community or media members learn about and contact you.

Regarding your students, here are some strategies to let your personality shine through in your course shells. Note that you don’t have to wear a costume or create an online personality out of thin air (“this year I want to be . . . Beowulf Professor!”). Rather, all you need to do is share the most engaging version of yourself. An easy way to get started with this is to include a sparkling instructor bio with a photograph or some audio / video footage of yourself. More specifically, the Koehler Center has some information, tips, and templates for creating instructor bios.

Now that we’ve gotten the essential pieces out of the way, I want to leave you with a little metaphysical candy treat. Below is a video from Alan Levine, the Vice President and Community Technology Officer of the New Media Consortium. The video is longer than most we share here, but it’s a great philosophical exploration of our online, offline, and in between identities – and the way we actively shape them and the way they are shaped for us. (Is this the process of being disembodied? Or unified? Who’s wearing the costume now?)

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