This week’s topic introduces the idea of the digital footprint, i.e. the traces of an online presence one leaves behind. These can be traces the owner of the footprint leaves themselves (writings, social media posts, and so on) as well as traces left by the presence in the online activities of others (tagging in posts, etc). This post will reflect on my experience of uncovering my own digital footprint using Google.
I have a fairly unusual middle name and my first name isn’t especially common either, so when I look up my full name, there are about 380 results and most of the first two pages are directly about me. The first result is my University staff page, the second my doctoral thesis, the third my first published peer-reviewed article, and the fourth is my (gulp) book project that came out of the doctorate, Friendship in the Merovingian Kingdoms. It’s a surprise to see that some of the other results on the first page are my Rhode Island voter records and phone books. If I do a quick search without my middle name, the staff page is still the first thing that comes up, the library guides to the subjects I support are second, LinkedIn is fourth, and academia.edu is fifth.
In short, all of the information that comes up about me is related to either my work, publications or academic studies. This is pretty much what I want someone to find (I would prefer to keep my personal life offline as much as possible). On the other hand, it highlights to me the need to keep my staff page, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu up to date. My last big burst of updating these occurred when I started my current full-time job in 2017, so a few updates might be in order!