The millennial generation, perhaps more than any other, has carved out a significant part of who they are online. Through social media sites such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, we express a big part of who we are, what we do, who we interact with, and how we live our lives. Or rather, how we want other people to perceive how we live our lives. Are those smiles you see genuine, or was there a fight taking place off camera about who gets to stand in the middle for the picture? Digital identity’s can be confusing, as they don’t always provide the full accurate picture. It doesn’t just begin and end at social media platforms either, our digital fingerprint stretches far and wide to the websites we purchase what we want such as Amazon and eBay, the things we type into a google search engine, and our viewing history of streaming sites such as Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+. As accurate or inaccurate as it may be, all these things combined say something about us and how we choose to spend our valuable money and time. The question however, is just how accurate is your digital identity from your true identity, and what does your digital identity say about you to a complete stranger?
The first place I think most people would look to find something out about someone is social media. It is perhaps the most easily accessible as almost everyone has a social media account of some form or another, and they are all free to use. Personally, I use Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. I must admit however, I really do not use social media for much other than a convenient news source. If you were to find my Instagram, you would first find that it is private, and that I do not accept requests from people I do not consider a friend. Not to mention that I only have 3 posts on my page, and I am not in any of them. So, the most you would learn about me from Instagram is a vague idea of what I look like from my tiny profile picture. I recently made a Twitter this past December, but I only use it as a platform to receive news, and follow my favorite music artists/athletes/teams etc. I use a nickname that was given to me by my parents as the username, and don’t follow anyone I know so I doubt anyone would find me on it. If they were to find me however, they would find out that I’m a very big Buffalo Bills fan, and love vinyl records.
If anyone were to find my email, they would find a more about me than social media. If they opened a full page of my personal email and scrolled down it, they would find confirmation receipts for merchandise, bank statements (the most depressing to read), A Disney+ promotional email telling me the new Mulan movie is ready to stream, 7 reclaim hosting confirmation emails (thanks professor), and Apple and Netflix informing me they’re taking more of my money. If you were to receive an email from me on my personal email, you would either be an online store that I needed to cancel/return/revise my order from, or my mother from me sending you files as per requested.
My school email tells a different story. My primary Gmail account at the moment contains emails from professors telling me what the week/day is going to look like, emails from Oswego today that I never open (does anybody?), confirmation receipts from Chegg and the school bookstore, Amazon prime student emailing me to join their service, and several other notifications that either get sent to me via the schools automated email service, or from various clubs whose email list I signed up for. I email professors for various reasons whether to let them know I won’t be in class, or a problem that I might be experiencing on blackboard. These are in a very professional manor, so it isn’t a true representation on how I would normally address someone in a regular situation. My school email shows that I can communicate professionally and respectfully.
Lastly, a simple google search of “Cory Jackson” will not pull up much about me. Recently, a musical artist named Cory Jackson has become popular from being on the voice, so any refence to me has been pushed back several pages. If I re-define the search to include my hometown Amherst, NY, google will pull up my LinkedIn profile, and my MaxPreps profile from my high school soccer team.
To borrow a term we learned in class, my internet use is multimodal. In the examples I used, I use the visual, spatial, and linguistic modes of communication. For social media, I use all three, as I take pictures (visual), caption them (linguistic) and post them to my Instagram/Twitter profiles (spatial). For email, I also use those three modes for when I send attachments (visual) writing the email (linguistic) and the way I format the email for the different points I may be making (spatial).
Overall, in my opinion, my digital identity represents a pretty good representation of me. While I do use the internet every single day, I don’t put much of myself out there. I believe I can attribute this to my parents as they are in their late 50s, mid 60s and they grew up in a world without the internet. As a result, I was preached at a young age about the dangers of how a simple badly worded post or inputting too much information on the internet can be extremely dangerous and cause blowback in the future, so I never was the biggest user of the internet to begin with. Additionally, I always had the mindset that if I want to get in touch with someone I could just text or call them.
This assignment made me open my eyes to how connected we are with media in other forms such as social media. We don’t necessarily think about sites such as Netflix, or Amazon representing us, but they do just as much as social media. My concerns about digital identity for the future are that they will overshadow our offline identities. The world of technology has become so immersive just in my own lifetime that the thought of how far it might go in 20 more years is as exciting as it is scary. My hope is that there will always be a place in this world for a cup of coffee with a friend, or a movie date with a significant other. While, the internet and our digital identities no doubt play a role in shaping our identities, there still should be a lot to be said for our true identities behind the screen.