We read briefly about the process of digital permanence and then I allow them move into metaphors. Some prefer "footprint" or "handprint" while others like the notion of "tattoo." We talk about what it means to present yourself online respectful.
However, as we get into the notion of employers "researching" one's digital footprint, I take a different turn from many techies. Instead of warning them, "be careful, in case of future job interviews," I ask students to develop their own questions:
- What does this say about the disappearance of privacy in our world?
- Should corporations have the power to intrude on your personal life?
- If it's a condition of employment, can it truly be voluntary?
- If a person can't bring their personal life into work, why can an employer snoop into an employers personal life?
- If they see my political beliefs and they don't like it, will I still get hired?
- Shouldn't kids have a chance to mess up?
There is a touch of outrage in the questions. Instead of simply saying, "play nice online," my students are asking fundamental questions about the power of corporations and the lack of privacy we experience due to social media.
This feels like a stark contrast to so much of the conversation regarding digital footprint revolves around precautionary steps students should take in order to be hired without ever asking whether it is wrong or right to peak into one's personal life in the first place. I often hear techies talking about how students need to self-market and develop their own brand.
We've turned an age that is unmistakably turbulent into something that is somehow a fixed identity. Adolescents are at a place where they are learning how to do relationships. They are still taking profile pictures standing shirtless in front of a bathroom mirror. They are still using language they shouldn't use in a professional environment. They are hashing out their ideas about the world in often overstated ways.
But here's the thing: They're kids.
There is a touch of outrage that my students experience in learning that future employers might be spying on the lingering, permanent image of themselves, even when the evolving, improving, progressive version stands before an employer for a job interview. And who can blame them for feeling betrayed? They've been branded for a brand while the adults in their world are offering condescending advice on being nice online.photo credit: Monroe's Dragonfly via photopin cc