Mercy Aba Blankson’s thoughts … The need for digital footprints

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With the ever-increasing adoption of technology, it is necessary to be fully aware of what digital footprints are and how to use them in our favour.

Every Facebook post, tweet, click on a pop-up porn site and assignment sent via email to lecturers leaves evidence of our presence online whether we know it or not. Digital Footprints – also known as digital shadows, cyber shadows and electronic footprints – refer to the traces of activities that individuals, organizations and businesses leave behind online whenever they use the Internet. This data can be released by Internet users either actively or passively.

Unfortunately, some people haven’t done a lot of digital ‘foot-printing’. Some do not even have a LinkedIn account, which is one of the most important but usually underestimated social media channels in Ghana. These footprints serve as digital references which will be available on the Internet till the world ends.

In this digital era, your name and/or nick-name has to be in search results, so that whatever name anyone knows you with or hears as yours will be found on the Internet. Even if the search results are only of your social media accounts, that’s a great start and why you need to maintain a clean social media account. It should be free of pornography, hate speech among others. Consider checking the timeline of social media users who send you friend-requests to make sure they are clean and free from potential Internet harm before you accept or follow them.

This is because even the Facebook Timeline Review only controls what is allowed on your timeline as the post-one tagged in still appears in searches, news feeds and other places on Facebook.

Occasionally Google your name and nickname in order to be aware of and be abreast with what others (whoever it may be, maybe an employer) see when they use the search engine. Consider setting up Google alerts for your name and nick-name to help you track the trail left online by others about you by occasionally receiving alerts of any online content about you through your email.

Facebook posts that include the appropriate tags help to increase views and online presence. This also means that negative stories can be attached to your digital footprints – such as when you are associated with something negative that occurred and happens to be reported on online news or online pages of traditional media. Sometimes, some Facebook friends tag others with posts and images one would rather not be associated with.

That is why it is necessary to customise Facebook settings to allow one individually decide for each post tagged in to either appear on one’s timeline or not. Sometimes, people post images and feeds that are not very positive such as nude or almost-nude photos, derogatory comments and discriminatory posts – and we wouldn’t want those to be on our timeline when an employer decides to scrutinise our social media accounts. We all know the Internet never forgets. Besides, you never know who is watching!

The Facebook Timeline Review can help you approve what should appear on your timeline. Based on your settings, anytime you are tagged the post will not show on your timeline until you approve it.

In the same way, advertisers use cookies which we often accept without even understanding that they are used to track user activity in order to target them with customised content; that is the same way potential employees use our digital footprints to find their potential recruits. Online background checks are the new norm.

Digital Footprints are a lifelong phenomenon, so it would be best to present yourself in a good light by leaving strong footprints. So, go ahead; Google your name or nick-name and see what that famous search engine presents you with – the results may be the reason why you don’t hear anything after submitting your CV. If there is nothing, you have a lot of work to do; if it’s little then there is more room for improvement.

>>>The writer is a student of GIJ

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