Who are you?

Who will you be online? Photo: Frederic Poirot/flickr/CC

TOPIC: Curating your digital history TASK: WordPress account, Twitter account

READ: WordPress Basics, by Mindy McAdams; Microsoft’s 11 tips for social networking safetyResources for exploring digital identity, privacy and authenticity by Catherine Cronin of NUI, Galway.

FURTHER READING (highly recommended!)Digital Identities: Six Key Selves of Networked Publics, by Bon Stewart.

CLASS EXERCISES: It’s interesting – and maybe a little worrying – that many of us publish intimate information about ourselves, our friends and our families online almost daily. Self-publishing on the Internet can be a wonderful thing – good bloggers can attract an audience without needing to be mediated by the gatekeepers of “mainstream” media, which means it can be easier to break into the industry. Social media networks are an exciting way to make professional contacts, and also to stay in touch with people you like and love. But to begin publishing anywhere you need to understand both the legal and personal implications of broadcasting information.

In media law and ethics you’ll learn about how the laws of defamation and subjudice apply to online and social media. In this class we’ll be dealing with the personal: I’d like you to step back and try to take a critical look at the information you’ve posted so far about yourself and the people you know. It’s extremely difficult for you to think forward to a time when your older self may not want to see evidence of how you misspent your youth. It is easier, however, for you to imagine being different people (your mum, your teacher, your ex, a policeman) and then imagine their reactions to your online self. This kind of self-reflection is important if you’re going to allow pieces of your private self into the public sphere. Thinking twice before posting a status update or photo, or tweeting, is a good practice – think of it as looking before you leap.

Posting stupid stuff isn’t always a disaster. Sometimes it’s just plain embarrassing. But once you’ve started to build a personal history on the web, it’s very hard to erase details you’d prefer to forget. If there’s anything on your social media networks that you’d prefer your parents or your boss didn’t see, get rid of it now. Meanwhile, have a play with this Facebook toy – it’s a little spooky. Finally, try the Facebook photo exercise from Reading University’s This Is Me project.

Take a look at yourself on FaceBook: Take this lollipop

Exercise from the This Is Me project, Reading University: Select someone who is your Facebook friend and look at photos in which they are are tagged, then below write comments you imagine the following might add to a small selection of these:

  • Their partner
  • Their ex-partner
  • Their father
  • Their cousin
  • Their teacher
  • A prospective employer
  • A co-worker
  • Someone they study with

Repeat the exercise using photos posted featuring yourself.

 Creative Commons License This Is Me Activities by This Is Me is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.


1. Open a Twitter account. Your user name should be professional, though you may use a pseudonym, and you can change your user name later. Upload an avatar (don’t be an egg!) and start finding people to follow. Start with @babelfishes, and include your fellow students.

2. If you don’t have one, open a Dropbox or Google Drive account. These are useful for backing up your own work, and being able to get to it from anywhere. But perhaps more importantly, they’re great for sharing work and collaborating.

3. Look critically at your Facebook profile, and consider removing any photos or other content which might compromise your professional identity, or at least ensure that your photos and other personal details are visible only to friends. Facebook is notorious for changing privacy settings, so make sure you’re aware of who can see into your private life. Google yourself. And then do a Google image search for your name. Are there any results you’d prefer an employer didn’t see?


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