What Your Digital Footprint Says About You

April 14, 2021
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Have you ever stopped to think about your digital footprint? 

If the answer is no, then think about this…

Your digital footprint is the trail of information you leave behind when using the internet. Think Hansel and Gretel leaving a trail of breadcrumbs behind them as they walk through the forest. Every time you post, share, comment, or even accept cookies on your device, you’re creating your digital trail, also known as a digital footprint. 

Why is it important?

“Why is this important?” You might ask. Well, the information you share online doesn’t just include the Tweet you shared or the comment you left on your crush’s Instagram post, it also includes your IP address, login details and any other personal information that you reveal online. This means that it could have a lasting impact on your life if you are not careful what you post, share or even engage with online. 

Every day, the media is rife with stories about celebrities, politicians and everyday people like us being faced with backlash as a result of their social media footprint. Whether it be a rage Tweet, or an offensive comment on a person’s Facebook post, the past always seems to find a way to come back and haunt us, which is why it’s crucial now more than ever to protect yourself online. Your reputation depends on it.

But, how does it all work?

Back in the early days when everyone had dial-up internet, most of our personal information was considered just that…personal. But today, in the era of social media and self-documentation, our digital footprints expose more information about us than ever before. Who you ‘like’, follow, or interact with online can define how others perceive you. They can also make or break your reputation in some instances.

The internet consolidates all of this information, so other people can quickly and easily access all this information about you with a quick Google search. So, ask yourself: what does your digital footprint look like? Is it positive or negative? If your friends and family were to Google you or peruse your social media profiles, what would be their first impression? 

Think about it this way, with everything online these days, a simple search online can often reveal this much information about you: 

  • Your name
  • Your email address
  • Your phone number 
  • Your social media accounts
  • Your employer
  • Your picture 

Personal information like this can impact the way people perceive you. Social media is one of the most significant contributors to your digital footprint. We tend to use social media like a conversation, or stream of consciousness, so a ‘like’, comment, or a share can influence how people see you. Social media conversations are seen by many and will never go away on their own. Even though you might delete a comment or an entire post in some cases, you’ll never know if someone has already taken a screenshot and reposted it on another platform or website. 

What does it all mean?

Digital footprints can be classified into two broad categories: active and passive footprints. Active digital footprints are data that you leave when you have made a deliberate decision on the internet, like sharing content on Facebook or YouTube. But, what you might not know is that you’re also leaving a passive digital footprint online, while you do so. For instance, most websites will collect information about how many times you’ve visited their website by tracking your browser cookies, or using geolocation to pinpoint your location. 

While you don’t have control over every mention of yourself online, you can control what you share online and be proactive about protecting your online reputation. Once your reputation is tarnished, it’s hard to get it back to its former shiny self. Take a minute to check what your digital footprint looks like right now. Start by searching for all variations of your name. 

What you find is your digital footprint. 

Is this what you want your current and future employers, colleagues, friends, and family to see about you? 

Remember that your digital footprint can significantly impact whether you get that scholarship, dream job or even that first date. Look at your internet profiles as though you’re looking into a mirror. Who’s looking back at you? Is it someone you would be proud to introduce to new people? You should focus on crafting a positive digital footprint by posting things you would be happy to share, rather than be ashamed or embarrassed by. 

So, how do I clean my digital footprint?

Now you know what a digital footprint is and how you leave a trail behind you on the internet, you will be more aware of your relationship with the internet. And so,, we have compiled a couple of quick questions for you to ask yourself before making any interaction online: 

  • Would I want this to appear if my name was searched online?
  • Why am I interacting with this content? 
  • Is this how I want to be perceived by other people?
  • Would I want someone I know to see me interacting with this post?
  • Is this post I am commenting on align with how I want to be perceived?
  • Are the accounts I follow reflective of how I want others to see me?

Meanwhile, you can set up Google Alerts to protect your digital footprint even more so. Each time your name is mentioned online, you will receive a notification. However, if your name is pretty common it’s always helpful to attach some keywords associated with you, such as your location or activities that relate to you. 

Another one of the most common ways to protect your online reputation is taking the time to review the privacy settings on your social media accounts, so you can control who can and cannot see your posts. It’s worthwhile to fully explore your social media platforms’ privacy settings and adjust them to protect your privacy. And by this we do mean read the long-winded privacy policies. They may be boring, but it’s important to know what you’re opting into and how your privacy is being protected. 

Using social media is part and parcel of today’s internet age and it’s not going anywhere. So, before you hit ‘publish’ on that TikTok video or rage Tweet, it’s always a good idea to think about how it may impact your future and your online reputation. Think you might need a little help cleaning up your digital footprint? We have good news. We’re here to help. With our AI-based social media scanner you can run a free scan of your social profiles and clean up your digital footprint by detecting and deleting any potentially harmful posts that may be lurking on your profiles.