To me, the definition of web presence is how you are represented online. Think of it as your digital identity, comprised of online data about you. Some of the data you purposely share yourself (e.g., posting on Facebook, writing a blog entry, etc.), while other data is shared out of your immediate control (e.g., having an embarrassing photo of you uploaded). Just as you can have a reputation in person, the data that makes up your web presence creates your online reputation. The correlation is a simple one:
Data that reflects intelligence and thoughtfulness generates a positive web presence.
Data that reflects libel and poor morals generates a negative web presence.
For this particular assignment we are assuming digital footprint is the “intentional or unintentional traces that you leave behind when you visit web pages, search for information, post on Facebook, tweet, shop online, or engage in similar activities.” Comparing this definition to the one I gave for web presence, I believe web presence and digital footprint are very closely related. So close, in fact, that you can’t have a web presence without a digital footprint. However, to call them synonymous, as depicted in this School Tube video (cheshireps, “Protecting Your Digital Footprint”) would be inaccurate. Here’s why I think this:
Your digital footprint is comprised of every action you do online. Every link you click, every form you submit, every cat video you search for on YouTube. Just like fingerprints, I like to believe a digital footprint is unique to one person: you guessed it, you! Because it is made up of everything you do online, the data that builds your web presence creates a significant portion of your digital footprint. The data you do not personally share online is not part of your digital footprint because you were not the one who left it behind (which, in itself, has the potential to cause more harm than the digital footprint by itself). Still, as the Verizon Software developer who outsourced his job to China and was found to spend his 8-5 job surfing Reddit and watching cat videos can attest, your digital footprint can also affect your reputation (Hill, 2013). This is why it becomes increasingly important to be properly educated about both web presence and digital footprint.
While currently I work among post-secondary students, I believe teaching students how to manage a positive web presence needs to start at a much younger age. As of 2010, an astounding 81% of children under the age of two already have some form of web presence thanks to their parents (“Digital Birth: Welcome to the Online World”, 2010). To form a general understanding of web presence at a young age should be a main objective in K-12 education. By giving students the opportunity to start developing their own web presence in a constructive, collaborative, and creative environment, you will also be helping them to develop positive, life-long Internet practices. Lisa Nielsen lists some excellent examples of activities in her blog, The Innovative Educator (Nielsen).
By the time these students reach high school, the focus should shift on how to manage their web presence and utilize it as a tool (Schawbel, 2011). The key to capitalizing on your web presence is to be aware of what information exists about you online—particularly on social media (Pan, 2012). I believe the beauty of web presence is the ability to manage and form it however you wish to represent yourself online.
Granted, not everything we post online in our lifetime will be meant for public viewing. I know I’ve personally posted videos and photos that were only meant to be viewed by my friends and family. In retrospect of all the content I’ve shared online in my lifetime, I believe it is most definitely necessary to separate public and private content. But the question that must be asked is: can you maintain both a private and a public web presence? Yes, but it doesn’t happen easily.
To say you can have a clean separation between public and private web presence is a little too bold. Although sometimes you have the option to adjust privacy settings, I believe nothing online is ever truly private. Antony Mayfield, iCrossing’s Senior Vice President of Social Media, describes maintaining a positive web presence as a constant fight (2010). I believe the same fight applies to maintaining a separation between your public and private content. With mindfulness about how you use the web, what information exists about you online, and a basic understanding of online tracking devices, you should be in a good position. However, there remain holes in the relationship between privacy and web presence.
With tracking devices like cookies, Facebook’s SSO (Single Sign-On), Google’s Ad ID, and Apple’s “identifier for advertisers” (IFDA), issues dealing with Internet privacy are current and significant (Reilly, 2014). Unfortunately it’s not just limited to what is shared on your computer. Any devices that connect to a network (think Apple’s iCloud) are able to be hacked. The recent “Celebgate” scandal is a perfect example of how a breach in privacy can affect your web presence (Levine, 2014). Privacy issues like these have the potential to seriously hurt your future job hunting effort.
It is a known fact that employers have been Google potential employees for years. But did you know a study by OfficeTeam showed that more than one-third of companies believe social media profiles will soon replace professional resumes? (Schawbel, 2011). If a company has a policy that does prohibits hiring people with a history of drug use and they find photos of you on Facebook holding a bong, you are obviously not going to get the job. Employer’s interests or policies have the potential to force you to be mindful of (or even censor) what goes in to your personal web presence. As I said earlier, while it is possible to make a distinction between personal and private web presence, there is no guarantee that there will not be overlap somewhere.
However, by remaining active, positive, and consistent in your online behavior (Posner, 2011), using tools like Search Engine Optimization (Lincoln, 2013), and using a little common sense, you will be able to cultivate your own positive web presence in no time!
Cheshireps. (2011, January 11). Protecting Your Digital Footprint. Retrieved October 3, 2014. http://www.schooltube.com/video/d4e1ce965f05c53f961a/Protecting-Your-Digital-Footprint
Digital Birth: Welcome to the Online World. (2010, October 6). Retrieved October 6, 2014, from http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20101006006722/en/Digital-Birth-Online-World#.VDbw3mddUmR
Hill, K. (2013, January 16). Software Developer Who Cleverly Outsourced His Job To China Betrayed By His Digital Footprint. Retrieved October 3, 2014, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2013/01/16/software-developer-who-cleverly-outsourced-his-job-to-china-betrayed-by-his-digital-footprint/
Levine, B. (2014, September 1). Hole in Apple’s ‘Find My iPhone’ appears plugged, closing access to celebrities’ private photos. Retrieved October 3, 2014, from http://venturebeat.com/2014/09/01/hole-in-apples-find-my-iphone-appears-closed-closing-potential-access-to-celebrities-private-photos/
Lincoln, J.E. (2013, March 18). The Perfect Organic Web Presence – SEO and Social Media. Retrieved from http://www.seoinc.com/seo-blog/the-perfect-organic-web-presence-seo-and-social-media/
Palermo, E. (2013, May 1). 5 Places to Look for Your Digital Footprint. Retrieved October 3, 2014, from http://mashable.com/2013/05/02/your-digital-footprint/
Pan, J. (2012, August 28). Students, Here’s How to Kick-Start Your Personal Brand Online. Retrieved October 3, 2014, from http://mashable.com/2012/08/29/personal-branding-for-students/
Posner, M. (2011, February 14). Creating Your Web Presence: A Primer for Academics. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/creating-your-web-presence-a-primer-for-academics/30458
Mayfield, A. (2010, April 8). 3 Tips for Managing Your Online Reputation. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2010/04/08/managing-online-reputation/
Nielsen, L. (2011, August 19). Discover what your digital footprint says about you. Retrieved from http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2011/08/discover-what-your-digital-footprint.html
Reilly, R. (2014, October 6). The cookie is dead. Here’s how Facebook, Google, and Apple are tracking you now. Retrieved October 6, 2014, from http://venturebeat.com/2014/10/06/the-cookie-is-dead-heres-how-facebook-google-and-apple-are-tracking-you-now/
Schawbel, D. (2011, February 21). 5 Reasons Why Your Online Presence Will Replace Your Resume in 10 years. Retrieved October 3, 2014.