Digital Identity; Cybersleuthing feels like cyber stocking

Cybersleuthing my partner was a creepy experience for me, not because there was anything weird about my partner but because I felt I was invading her privacy, like I was overstepping my bounds. I felt like there was something wrong with me, looking for anything I could about her. I came to know her, some very specific details of her life. I wondered how easy it would be to steal her identity. I have no idea how to go about this and I have no plans to but I think an experienced person probably could. My partner was easy to find on Facebook which did not really surprise me because we are about the same age and Facebook includes many in our generation. This made me reflect back to Katia’s lecture on June 3rd, 2021 when she said “that if you don’t have a Facebook, you are considered suspicious”. When I began cybersleuthing my partner and I discovered she was on Facebook, my immediate reaction was “oh thank heavens she has Facebook” (not because it made my cybersleuthing easier, but because her having Facebook somehow made her ‘normal’).

An area in my life I have taken great pride in is that I do not (think I) have a digital footprint. So imagine my surprise when I read the article Having Multiple Online Identities is More Normal Than You Think and discovered that many people have multiple accounts using multiple platforms! My own teenagers have “spam” accounts but I thought they were weird, the minority, the exception, not the going (and growing) trend! I do wonder how people have time to manage so many online identities because it sounds exhausting. The author makes this point as to why people have multiple online identities: “Different sites, different audiences, different purposes”. Taking a look at Jon Ronson’s Ted Talk reminds me that we need to be very careful what we post online because it all leans in to our digital identity, the good and the bad, the positive and the negative, our charm and our mistakes.

Watching Monika Lewinsky’s Ted Talk was hard because she made a mistake, right at the beginning of what has become known as digital identity. At the young age of 22 she “fell in love with my boss”, who just happened to be the president of the United States. People who did not know her, the situation, or most likely anything else to do with the circumstance made horrible comments that we now call “public shaming”. This “culture of humiliation” is inappropriate, very harmful and dangerous and we even risk losing our voice in a culture in which “voiceless people found they could now have voice” (Jon Ronson). I am sitting back, taking all this in, trying to understand and digest it all and I more clearly understand my hesitation to have a digital footprint. Is seems as though there is NO room online to make a mistake or to post anything less than what appears to be perfect.

Madison Holleran’s story is an excellent example of trying to achieve an online presence exhibiting only perfectionism. Holleran became so enthralled with the idea of perfection both offline and online that it ultimately cost her her life. She observed her friends unfiltered ‘perfect’ lives and she felt inadequate, that she could never achieve this level of happiness, of perfectionism. Unfortunately, it became too unbearable for her to bear.

Even when we are offline, we are online. There is no longer a difference. “We don’t have an ‘online me’ and an ‘offline life'”(Katia Hildebrandt, lecture June 3rd, 2021). The perfect example of this is Justine Sacco who made a Tweet to her few Twitter followers, jumped on an airplane, and by the time she landed, that Tweet had traveled around the world faster than she was, unbeknownst to her, and ultimately had her fired from her job.

My key takeaways from this lesson are:
#1: I need an digital footprint because if I don’t create mine somebody else will;
#2: By giving real life experiences, we can learn and be taught about digital identity;
#3: The internet works very quickly;
#4: If I need to push something further down the google search results then I need to be posting as much as possible to get people to click on those instead of the undesirable content.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

2 thoughts on “Digital Identity; Cybersleuthing feels like cyber stocking

  1. I was going to mention about ‘spam’ accounts in my post as well, but didn’t find a good place to fit it in. I find the idea of them to be really interesting, that somehow people can act differently based on which account they are using (which is more so a reflection of their audience).
    I also really liked your last point about “I need a digital footprint, because if I don’t create mine, somebody else will”; it’s so true. And honestly, even as we create our own identities online, other people are contributing to that, so we just have to do our best to control what we can. This is also why it’s so important that we educate our students on these topics, so that their online identities can be preserved too.

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  2. Jana & Sydney, I agree completely. I was reading another blog post where they mentioned spam accounts. I personally have never created one nor do I think I would but I do find the idea of them very interesting. I think it would be a shock to come across someone who you thought you knew second account and just being like who are you really… But I guess that’s how the internet works, you never really know someone until you know someone! Great post Jana!

    Like

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