How to Overcome What Scares Us About Our Online Identities

“If you were thinking about hiring a new faculty member in your department, how would you learn more about her?”

That is the question I’ve found most helpful whenever I begin one of the workshops I lead on my campus to help academics create and manage their digital identities. Faculty members, graduate students, and others typically respond by saying they would read the candidate’s work and talk with others in the field, but eventually someone will say, “Google her.” Indeed, it’s often the first thing someone says. I then ask attendees what someone might learn if he or she were to Google them. Would they be happy with what a search-committee member, journalist, or conference organizer looking for a keynote speaker learned about their work? Would it tell the whole story?

People who attend the workshops know that a strong digital identity is important for their careers, or they wouldn’t be there. This, it turns out, is the difference between faculty members and undergraduates: Students tend to think they already know how to manage an online presence, especially their Facebook privacy. (They don’t. They really don’t.) Academics, on the other hand, know they have a lot to learn. But they do have some very specific worries about what it means to put themselves “out there” on the Internet and on social media. Among the most common fears I have heard in the years I have been giving these workshops…<Read more.>

Via Brian Croxall, The Chronicle of Higher Education.