If you are reading this, you have a digital footprint. A digital footprint is the trail of data you leave behind as you venture across the internet and apps. Many companies, employers, clients, and acquaintances use this information to various degrees to get a glimpse of who you are. It’s the reason that you can search for a product on your desktop computer and then see an ad for that product pop up on facebook on your phone 10 minutes later.
There are two kinds of footprints; passive and active. Your passive footprint is where your IP address is logged as you go around sites. It tags your internet provider and your general location. Your active footprint is one where you providing the information yourself. Emails, online shopping, search engine queries, and all social media count in this area.
We’ll focus on your active footprint today and how to manage it to your benefit.
Think about what you put there as forever
Think about what you say or post online in terms of forever, because it likely will live out there long after you are gone. Even if you go back and delete posts, tweets, etc all it takes is someone to take a screenshot of it and repost it to give it new life. This has come back to bite celebrities, brands, and politicians especially.
Even if I were to burn down my suite of websites today, places like The Wayback Machine will keep an archive on it and it will on. Just click the link to see a great example of zackhudson.com. It has taken 25 snapshots over the years and can see when it was owned by a guy in Oklahoma over 12 years ago.
Once you release something to the wild it’s hard to get it back. Don’t overshare and consider everything you send in terms of forever.
I don’t mean to search for yourself in a philosophical way. I mean literally search for yourself on google and as a guest on social media platforms. This will give you a good idea of what others will see when they search you out. It may be an affirming exercise or extremely eye-opening depending on what you find.
Use that awareness to clean up your accounts. Make posts private that you don’t want out there and considering locking down the privacy of your accounts to friends and contacts only during job searches.
Search and scrub is the first piece of advice I give to someone that grew up fully in the digital age and is on the job hunt.
Linking and a secondary email
Oftentimes sites give you the option of linking your social media instead of creating an account. Sure it may be faster, but you are giving people access to your information as a result.
Create a secondary email address to use for these types of sites. It keeps your socials protected and it will keep your primary email address clean of clutter and spam from sites that you may not use that often. This is another tip I often give to people looking for jobs. Using a secondary email on your resume, and job hunting sites puts all the info in one place and will save your primary one long term.
Be a good internet citizen
Not everything about managing your digital footprint has to do with protecting your privacy. When you are online, make a positive impact. Lift people up and don’t troll people or organizations. Be a good citizen to others when you are online.
Your digital footprint reflects who you are as a person to others online. Make sure that it is an image that represents you well.
Make a better tomorrow.