25 October 2016

Control and Protect Your Online Identity (Part 1)

"Is this gonna be seen on the internet? Like, public? Because I'm wondering if I can say negative things." These were my 15-year old son's concerns as he drafted his very first short article for a family blog project. I was pleasantly amused (and mildly proud) because those are exactly what we should all be thinking about before posting anything on the internet.

FutureLearn's short module on "Managing Your Online Identity" says that if you have active social media accounts, then you have an online presence. In my humble opinion, there are two essential aspects about our online presence that we should be mindful of: Controlling what we post (read on below) and Protecting our online profile (discussed in Part 2 of this article).

Control What You Post

In "Managing Your Online Identity", the instructor invites us to think about "what you are advertising about yourself":
"What does your online profile currently say about you, your interests, values, opinions, and ambitions? If someone finds you online before they meet you in person, what kind of person might they be expecting in the flesh? If you have any sort of online life, it's inevitable that others will make judgments about you before you've even met, and that means that taking control of what you share with the world is a smart move." [emphasis mine]

Screengrab from "Managing Your Online Identity"

"Control". That's a big word, isn't it? As a verb, Merriam-Webster defines it in these ways:
  • determine the behavior or supervise the running of
  • maintain influence or authority over
  • limit the level, intensity, or numbers of
  • remain calm and reasonable despite provocation

If we apply that definition to the words and actions we take on social media, then it's not just about what we share with the world but also when, with whom, how, and why. To illustrate: consider the what-ifs in this high-profile murder trial because of one juror's carelessness.

We are ultimately responsible for what we share online because, as it is in the real world, there are consequences. The outcome is also within your control.

Udemy's e-learning module on Mobile Cybersecurity Awareness repeatedly emphasizes these points:
  • Consider how your actions and words affect others. You do not want any drama from hurt feelings or injured sense of pride.
  • Social media can be a powerful way to collaborate with others, especially if done with common sense and good judgment.

A good example of being in control over what you post is this woman, who tweeted about being groped on a plane. Clearly, she understood that there is but a fine line between her virtual world and the real world. She clarified the boundaries and showed control over a distressing situation.

Yes, your online identity does not fully represent who you really are. It's also important to remember that social media isn't actually a living thing but a tool, albeit a powerful one. Therefore, you can control what you share and which actions you will take.

Start learning how with these resources and improve your online presence:

Managing Your Online Identity
Mobile Cybersecurity Awareness
How to fact-check yourself before you post

Continue on to Part 2: Protect your Online Profile

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