It’s my birthday tomorrow, and I woke up wanting to change my Facebook profile picture (which is a little ridiculous to admit, but we all do it from time to time, right?), which led me to think about how we manipulate our digital footprints as we make actual footprints. I’m a little tired of my photos on Facebook (and honestly, am waiting for the next social network to take over — I have a feeling Google+ might be it, but we’ll see) so chose something innocuous: a photo of me at the beach in the late fall, looking off to the ocean during sunset. I’ll never forget the trip. We laughed for forty-eight straight hours. It was a very happy time, and I like being reminded of that laughter and the openness of the beach, a place I lived, breathed, and ate in my childhood.
So I’m fascinated by what we’re doing as we walk around making dual footprints: actual ones as we literally make our way around in the world, and digital ones as we virtually make our way around the internet.
As much as I loved computers as a kid, I was a late joiner in the social networking world. By the time I got around to joining Friendster, everyone had moved onto MySpace; by the time I joined MySpace, Facebook had taken over. It took a year or two, but I eventually grew an affinity for posting photos and keeping people up-to-date on my whereabouts as I attempted to balance my existence in both worlds. I jotted Facebook updates on napkins and bits of paper while doing anything that seemed update-worthy, and waited till I was in front of a computer to announce to my networks what I was doing.
I spent hours (as did many of my teaching colleagues) trying to figure out the security/privacy settings so that I could let all my “friends” see content, but my students wouldn’t be privy to the intimate details of my everyday life. It dawned on me this morning as I was thinking about my profile photo that I’m not that concerned about filtering anymore. Besides, I have a dissertation to write, and an actual life to live — my virtual one is only a reflection of my reality.
It’s funny being an educator at a time when the growth of digital communication is so fast-paced. I had dinner with an old friend the other day who works in technology in the corporate sector, and she was telling me some numbers about user growth that boggled my mind. Currently, one blogging platform she mentioned has something like 45,000 new bloggers each day. Seriously? That’s huge. And yet not surprising. It’s becoming quite odd to lack a digital footprint (with few exceptions), and I’m curious about the ways in which manipulation of said footprint is going to further affect the way we communicate as a society.