15 May 2013

Your online life, permanent as a tattoo

10 seconds and I know you...

You meet someone out one night, you're looking to employ someone, you're trying to find Mr or Mrs right, your networking; the thing is you can quickly 'know' quite a lot about that person just by using basic tools on the internet. Think Google search or Facebook just by typing the persons name.

And here's the thing - What you know about this person is probably (or at least quite possibly) more than that person would like you to know in order for you to base your first and maybe lasting impressions on them. There's that old adage "don't judge a book by its cover" - but it is simply hard not to sometimes, it's easy to see/read something which may well be out of context and then subsequently form a strong opinion.

And that strong, perhaps jaded opinion may be the difference in you getting a job, or someone connecting with you or not, or you missing an opportunity that may be have been perfect.

The issue

We do not control what Google brings up for our names (go on, go and check yours, we have all done it!), sure through SEO tactics we can put some strategies into place to try and manage listings on our names, and we can use privacy settings on social networks like Facebook but really....?

Is this enough?

Should we be worried?

Nowadays we are so connected. We have our social networks daisy chained together and our lives firmly imprinted in the digital ether for all to see.

We have hundreds of friends across tons of social networks, we have cookies embedded on our browsers and computers tracking our every movement across the web, we have GPS trackers, mobile apps with geo locaters, blah blah blah. We have a lot of digital tattoos. 

Should we be worried? Are there things that we don't want people outside of our close social circles to see? Could things be taken out of context and misunderstood? 


Your online life, permanent as a tattoo

Described as "a broad thinker who studies the intersection of science, business and society", Juan Enriquez is a fascinating man who recently did an excellent TED Talk discussing the long lasting effects of digital sharing on our personal identity / privacy.

He relates our digital life to digital tattoos, and like tattoos they are pretty permanent.

A few thoughts

I won't spoil the talk for as you can watch it below but for me it really raised more questions than conclusions, and it's a topic I need more time to think about to form any strong opinions on. There is no doubt that it is something we should be more aware of, and something that I believe requires a lot more understanding on from the general public. I would love to hear your thoughts on this below.
  • Awareness - Is there a lack of awareness within the general public (particularly with children) not only how important and influential our 'digital tattoos' may be now, but also how permanent and influential they may be for the future?
  • Understanding - Do we (the general public) really understand our social media network privacy settings, how we are being tracked on the web, who is storing data on us, what data is being stored, how that data helps us or can be used against us? Should social media, internet and mobile companies do more to educate us about this? 
  • Is prevention better than a cure? If we fully understood the permanence of our digital tattoo, would it make us think twice about what we write, or how we write, or what sites we visit? Is it right that our once personal place of expression can potentially now be used to create a distorted picture of the person other people may inaccurately think we are - just from a public search. Have the lines blurred a little too much between what is 'personal' and what is 'public'?
Despite the unanswered questions above, our digital stamp is permanent, and without being too paranoid, maybe the prevention method is better the cure. I.E just think before you post / release something into the web. 
A lot to ponder. Check out Juans great short and sweet TED Talk below.

About the author
Si Muddell is a Digital Strategist who has worked extensively both agency and client side. Si is fascinated about marketing, psychology & what motivates people, and loves guitar, surfing and travelling.

Get connected with Si on TwitterLinkedIn &
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