Saturday, December 11, 2010

Searching yourself?

One of the first tasks we do in the workshops I facilitate at the library is to have participants search themselves so they are aware of the information that is associated with their name, aliases, and screen names.

We use Google, cvgadget, iSearch, Googlism and some participants are surprised what they discover. While we can talk about the importance of a digital footprint we discover the importance of searching yourself online. I let them Google my name. Explaining the importance of verifying sources makes an impact when the entries that appear show my name, with a different middle initial, a different state, different age but a convicted sex offender. How do they know it is not me? We compare details and images but for those who do not know me they are only going what they learn about me from previous participants, follow me on Twitter, connected through Linkedin or through my blog how do they really know who I am?

I encourage them to take ownership of their digital footprint before they apply for a job, scholarship, volunteer opportunities, or any other possibility where they can connect with others. While I have background checks conducted by the various organizations that I apply for as a volunteer and different states requirements for substitute teaching, I have a security clearance because of my career with the military. So I assure them that I am safe and another reason for us to meet in the library where everyone can look, listen, and learn from everything we do in the workshops. Trust but verify is just another step as we challenge individuals to become self aware and empowered.

This blog post was engendered by a retweet I did of EdTechSandyK 's tweet, "Student Googles Himself, Finds Out He is Wanted for Murder". 

Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project published a report on May 26, 2010 by Mary Madden and Aaron Smith, titled:  Research Reputation Management and Social Media: How people monitor their identity and search for others online. This article addresses several major trends have indicated growth in activities related to online reputation management.

What is your favorite search tool when seeking information about yourself? Do you have a story like the young man in the story that discovered his name associated with a murder warrant? How do you manage your digital footprint when a search produces information about your name but not necessarily you? 
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