Thoughts on Digital Identities

I am blessed to be part of an institution which truly values independent thought about how to use modern technologies.  Most of us take the internet for granted, a testament to human adaptability considering that the sites we depend upon didn’t exist 20 years ago.  For instance, I access Google multiple times a day from work, home, and even my phone.  Yet, how often do we take time to consider these modern tools and the implications of this usage?  As part of their Domain of One’s Own Initiative, UMW provides interested students and faculty with the tools and training to better express themselves online.

As part of this training, I had to read several articles about digital identity this week.  One of the authors (Gardner Campbell) proposed that universities provide all students with their own web servers and domain names.  Since it was an assigned reading, I suspect it served as a foundation piece for the Domain of One’s Own project which has many similarities to Campbell’s proposal.  The articles were interesting, but most assumed that everyone would be using the internet and posting information about themselves online.

Is this assumption true?  Would it be a good thing?  Along with the authors of the assigned reading, I enjoy high technology.  I am thoroughly sold on the benefits of the technology for some, but I am not convinced everyone needs an individual digital presence or would benefit from such.  Did the authors consider that over 70% of Americans do not have a bachelor’s degree?

Does a digital presence make sense for those whose life path does not require computer expertise?  I know a fair number of adults who do not own a computer, let alone have the technological skills to manage their own domain.  The internet makes it easy for everyone to publish, but what about those who lack basic proofing skills?  Is it better to have no presence on the web or to have a well-established presence under one’s control that is full of typos, grammatical mistakes, and misspellings?

For those with the skills to maintain a professional web presence, should they write under their own name or under a pseudonym?  While there are many advantages to the freedom to publish on the internet – today’s bloggers tackle many issues the corporate press ignore – publishing one’s opinion may come at a cost.  In today’s environment, there are often many viable applicants for every job opening.  If a potential employer with a differing opinion finds an article while researching the candidate, will this influence which applicants are interviewed?

I certainly do not have the answers to all of these questions.  However, while I see great benefits in controlling one’s social presence for those with the proper skills, I have yet to be convinced this will be a benefit to all.  I still have several years before my own children start posting, but I may recommend that they do so under a pseudonym until they have enough experience to make their own informed decision.