The New Media Parlour

“Digital Footprints” Madden, Fox, Smith, and Vitak

Madden, Mary; Fox, Susanna; Smith, Aaron; & Vitak, Jessica. Digital Footprints, Report: Identity, Search, Social Networking Dec 16, 2007

The research on digital footprints by Madden, Fox, Smith, and Vitak gave an eye-opening profile of how the general population views their online identity. It is very easy as a student of new media to forget that not everyone is as embracing of new technology and even fewer understand how to utilize the technology effectively. The statistics in this article gave a much better picture of how most people, not just us early-adopters, understand and maintain (or don’t maintain) their online identity. Some surprising statistics for me were:

–       60% of Internet users say they are not worried about how much information is available about them online. This worries me because of the news reports that are regularly published about people that do not get hired for a job because of information available online about them.

–       61% do not feel compelled to limit the amount of information that can be found about them online. If people maintained their online identity, the benefits could outweigh the risk of having non-censored information available. For the most part, having some online identity is a positive tool for people (we’re not all sexual predators or binge drinkers) that may want a potential employer to see some of their interests and hobbies, a more well rounded image of them beyond a resume. But it may be a good idea to find ways to steer searchers towards to good links (your Linkedin account, your blog, photos of your dog) to avoid them getting to page 10 of the search results and finding that op-ed piece you wrote in college in favor of legalizing medical marijuana.).

–       Just 4% of all online adults say they have had bad experiences because embarrassing or inaccurate information was posted about them online. I think quite a bit of “warning” is given to people’s online identities. But this statistic shows that perhaps we are more worried about burying bad characteristics that may not even exist. The focus of managing a digital footprint should be to highlight your ideas, interests, activities, and views in a positive and professional way. We should not be afraid of what could be found but help searchers find positive and useful information about us.

The research did a good job of classifying the four general attitudes of internet-users towards their digital footprints:

1. Confident Creatives – They do not worry about the availability of their online data and actively upload content, but still take steps to limit their personal information


2. Concerned and Careful – fret about the personal information available and take steps to proactively limit their own online data.

3. Worried by the Wayside – They are anxious about how much information is available about them yet they do not actively limit their online information

4. Unfazed and Inactive – they neither worry about their personal information nor take steps to limit the amount of information that can be found about them online.

This article opened my eyes to how important it is to have a solid and confident digital footprint, especially when I will be trying to find a job in an industry that will most likely be googling me. I want potential employers to see how I utilize various mediums. It’s almost an extension of my resume and portfolio. I signed up for a Google Profile, since I have a fairly common name and there are domain names for other “Jennifer Waters” and “Jen Waters”. I wanted a place where I could give a quick rundown of myself and make it easy for searchers to find my blog, my linkin profile, my twitter account, and my Google Reader shared items.

When I was interviewing for my current internship, I google the person (who is now my supervisor) who interviewed me. I found his twitter account and his marketing blog (as well as his wedding pictures, which was weird…). I was able to talk about an article that he had posted on his blog during the interview. This not only showed my interest in the marketing trends he is interested in but also shows him how I stay connected with others online. He in turn made a comment on a post I had made on my blog. By the time I started my first day at the internship, my supervisor and I had already established some points of interest based on what we had learned about one another from googling each other. We also both admitted that we had googled the other, which shows the trend away from the “stalker” status of googling someone to a useful tool in understanding them better.

This article started to get me thinking about how I can improve my google-ability. One problem (which seemed like a precaution at the time) is that when I first started developing a digital footprint by starting my blog, I thought it was “unsafe” to use my real name (I put unsafe in quotes because I’m not sure what it was I was afraid of). So I used “MyJeneration”. It is somewhat unique and comes up in searches, which is good marketability for my blog, but not for me because my real name is not associated with the site in any way. But now that I want employers and interested parties to find my blog, I find it frustrating that my blog has better search results than my name. I’m hoping that using Google Profile will help this issue as well as perhaps investing in my own domain name as Shaun suggested to use as a storefront of sorts for my various outlets and projects.


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