|My son’s feet. Also available on Flickr (eltpics)|
Everything we do in the physical world leaves a trace, either concrete of abstract – touching our coffee mugs each morning, walking across our gardens, ironing the clothes, kissing our beloved family members, you name it. In the same manner, we leave ‘fingerprints’ and footprints in cyberspace. In technical terms, digital footprint is the data trail left by the interactions in a digital environment, i.e. traces of personal information about ourselves available to others online. In other words, digital footprints are the captured memories and moments, built from the interaction with various kinds of digital equipment. This description includes what people clicked on, searched for, liked, where they went, their location, their IP address, what they said, what was said about them, their login and logouts, visits to a web-page, accessed or created files, emails, chat messages or any other material showing the activities undertaken. It can refer to the size of a person’s online presence measured by the number of individuals with whom they interact.
Looking at the characteristic above, one would argue that it’s not easy to maintain a positive digital footprint or the one we would like other people to see. There are so many aspects to take into account; so many things to be careful about. As people sometimes unintentionally leave negative traces in the ‘material’ world, they can leave ones they are not proud of in cyberspace as well. I believe I maintain and update my digital footprint every second of my online presence because the things I like, the comments I leave, the messages I post, the content I suggest, etc. are reflections of what I am like at the given moment. And as I develop every second of my life – I change and grow a little – my digital footprint inevitably changes too. So I believe that as we develop and evolve, our digital footprint automatically ‘gets updated’. And yes, there are some cool tools, such as Vizify but they only collect the information and traces one has already left online. But the hard work still remains to be done by ourselves.
Here are several simple rules I try to follow in order to keep a positive digital footprint in cyberspace :
- Think before you post and interact.
- Be recent and relevant.
- Don’t spam people with irrelevant information.
- Connect with positive and knowledgeable people.
- Be positive and avoid negativity.
- Let your positivity be contagious.
- Be polite even if you’d rather be rude.
- Encourage and support whenever you can.