Establishing a Thriving (Digital) Identity

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Arifranklin via ourpangea

When I think back to my first years on the Internet, it consisted of writing on Facebook walls, creating Piczo websites, and having scheduled chats on MSN Messenger. During those early days of online connection, there wasn’t a lot of guidance or instruction because it was new for everyone. My parents and teachers didn’t bring it up in conversation or teach me about online ethics because it seemed harmless at the time. Over the years, the Internet has evolved into what it is now… a beautiful way for people to connect and create, but with a bit of a darker side than the “good ol’ days”. When I first started using social media, my online identity was separate from my “real” identity. It took time and effort to connect to the internet, log into my social media accounts, and navigate the internet. Now that technology has evolved, we have access to the online world at any waking moment… so is my digital identity still separate?

Before we get into the discussion of whether there is a difference between our real identity and digital identity, it’s important to know what a digital identity even entails. Our digital identities “include how we present ourselves and interact in digital spaces” as stated in “Research Writing Rewired: Lessons That Ground Students’ Digital Learning” by Dawn Reed and Troy Hicks. They also explain how our digital footprints “speak to this identity as we leave tracks that give information about ourselves in online spaces.” Our actions and words have have significant contributions to our online identity, so doesn’t that mean our online identity and our offline identity go hand in hand?

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

According to ISTE, “as our digital connections and interactions grow, the lines between our education and personal lives, our career and private activities, become blurred.”

Our physical lives are intertwined with our online lives now more than ever, so it’s time that we equip not only ourselves with the positive tools to thrive in this digital world, but also our students. In order for us to do that, we as teachers need to be aware of what kind of digital footprint we are leaving behind. In a recent blog post, Shelby mentions that “leading by example and setting expectations for students is the real way to get them to listen and think about what they are doing online.” She says that instead of living a “perfect” digital identity, it’s more important to live a real digital identity “showcasing that we are indeed human too, making mistakes and also having lots of different opinions, talents, and interests beyond just being teachers.”

So how can we model, lead, and teach our students to have a thriving digital identity that isn’t so separate from their everyday lives? We can teach them how to maintain positive citizenship, whether it’s online or offline, and better yet, we can encourage active leadership within them.

Here are some important ways that we ourselves can have a positive identity online and offline to make the world a better place, and in turn, teach our students to do the same.

Create and Cultivate Community

Just like our personal and professional lives can only function through human connection and relationship, our online lives need the same. There are many social media platforms that we use for connecting with others, such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat. We can use these tools to maintain positive connections with friends, family, and my personal learning network. Yes, these platforms can be used negatively, but that is why we need to instil digital citizenship within our students. If we do this, they will understand the benefits of having an online community and take pride in it. We have incredible opportunities to meet others, gain friendships, make connections, and build up a community through the social media and the internet.

Look at the Bright Side

It’s important that we learn the art of positivity in our day to day lives- and that includes the internet too. Using our words to uplift and encourage others online can make a positive ripple effect for the people around us. Teaching students how to bring positivity to the internet can outweigh the negativity. When we model this type of citizenship and leadership online, people start to see the good that the internet can bring.

Think Critically, Act Confidently

Critical thinking is an important skill for us to have when we face new experiences and challenges in our lives. It’s especially important now as we navigate this world of “fake news” and fake profiles. It’s valuable and crucial to think before you share, that you analyze new information, to always check the source, stay aware of your security, and the list goes on. However, instead of instilling fear in ourselves and our students, let’s give them the confidence they need to address these topics with problem solving skills so that they are aware instead of scared.

Show You Care & Don’t Forget to Share

In order to build a thriving digital identity, it’s important that you do something instead of erasing your digital footprint completely. This goes much further than scrolling through social media and making a few comments here and there. A thriving digital identity means contributing to the online world around you by using social media and the internet for good. Let’s remember to model a thriving digital identity in our own lives so that our students are then inspired to become active, contributing members of the online world who leave a positive digital footprint that also points towards a better future.

Thriving (Digital) Identities

As you can see, there are a lot of different elements that make up a digital identity. However, it’s valuable to note that our digital identity is also just a part of our identity. What we do online is still a part of our real world and is still in our everyday lives. So as we keep moving forward from our MSN Messenger days, let’s use the means of community, positivity, and contribution to model and create identities that are thriving both online and offline.

-Amanda

6 thoughts on “Establishing a Thriving (Digital) Identity

  1. Great post, Amanda! I like how you explained the different elements of digital identity. I have to admit I am still working on the contribution to the online world element. For example, I had a hard time, in the beginning, to interact on Twitter and tweet, but it is getting more comfortable every day. Getting professional feedback in any subject matter is a big plus I see on Twitter.

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    1. Thanks Nataly! I am also working on my contributing more to my online communities, but you’re right, as you get more experienced and comfortable, it becomes a lot easier and enjoyable. Thanks for reading!

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  2. Great post Amanda! I had flashbacks to my own MSN messenger days as I was reading your post. I think you hit some really important points on how we can encourage and help students create their own digital identities and even better, how to make sure it is positive. I think you are so right that we need to need to showcase how to make the internet a more positive place. It often becomes a place for negativity and negative thoughts, and it would be great to have students be the catalysts of change in that regard.

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    1. Thanks for reading, Shelby! I’m glad the post resonated with you. I agree- I would love to see more students recognize their potential to be be catalysts for change.

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  3. Great post. You are a very good writer / blogger. You may have not been taught online ethics but I bet you still had a strong exposure to just ethics which has served you well and shines through the work you share and as an online classmate. I really feel that it is more than a digital foot print and more of a digital tattoo which is more permanent. One thing that Alec has spoken to but sometimes we forget is that we must protect and be aware of attacks on our identity as well. You are great role model to colleagues and students of how one can thrive online. Keep up the good work.

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    1. Thanks Dean! I really appreciate that. I totally agree, protecting our identities online is more important than I thought. I am learning a lot about that this semester! Thanks for your encouragement and for being a thriving online leader!

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