What is the point of “privacy settings” when nothing is actually private? Pictures, addresses, phone numbers, emails, credit scores, family relations, neighbors, and more are all posted for the world to see whether you like it or not. It wasn’t until I got to high school that I learned about keeping your social media pages private because of future employment and potential stalking. Most of my pages stayed private and I never posted things super opinionated because I knew if I put something out there, it will stay out there. Understanding that a function of using these social sites is to save and store data for “analytics and research” I can’t say that I am comfortable with this idea. However, in order to complete my sign up for these social media sites, I need to agree to those terms. Google provided me with quite a bit of information that was my own as well as information that was not my own. These findings of inaccuracy sparked emotions that were a bit upsetting because the internet made my digital footprint a certain way when I know that is not my real identity. This makes me believe that one’s data identity shouldn’t be used to inform people on how someone really is because it can be an inaccurate representation of how they are in real life.
That's Not The Real Me
My Typical Usernames
Since it was stressed upon me to be cautious of what I put out on the internet, I kept most of my pages private...except Twitter. Luckily, when my full name is searched, it is not linked to my Twitter and Instagram accounts. When I searched for my typical usernames, however, they surely popped up. For Instagram, there were a few images that came up on my Google search that happened to be featured on my social media , however, my Instagram page is private. My Twitter account is public and as stated in my Twitter bio, “I just retweet stuff”. Knowing how opinionated Twitter was, it was never an app I felt comfortable enough to share what’s happening in my everyday life to the public. Since my Twitter page is public and all of my other social media pages are private, someone really interested in finding information about me may try to conclude several things about me. This can easily lead to inaccurate conclusions of what my real identity is because someone may try to guess the type of person I am based on what I share on my page. This can be bothersome because my Twitter audience is mostly my peers and it can affect the way my peers interact with me, specifically those I have not met in person yet. The dangers of judging a book by its cover can make people miss out on connections, relationships, and overall opportunities.
Incognito Name Search
Another thing Google provided me with was information on things that I participated in previous years. I can say for some information that I found, a stranger may not be able to link to me because the website had just my name which can align with the identity of someone else. I found things such as my high school stats as a volleyball player (which was not great). I went to a public high school and depending on which conference your school was in, you have to be registered to receive stats so that your skill level was recorded. It can also be beneficial if you wish to participate in collegiate level sports.
In addition to my high school activity, I found my college involvement as well. I was a part of a cultural organization on campus called African Student Association and held the position of Events Coordinator. However, I did not find this on the University of Michigan website. I found this information on a sketchy website that stored all of the information we have posted on Instagram. The Instagram page is public but I wonder who would ever create such pages to store information like that. If it wasn’t created by hand, I wonder how these information systems know when and what to reproduce on what seems like random websites.
With my high school and college experience being available freely on the internet, someone may try to conclude that I am an active and a social person. This conclusion would be quite inaccurate. It just so happens that my high school sports journey was made public on the internet but that does not mean I was active in high school. I may not even like volleyball. Similarly, just because I am in an organization at my university, it does not mean I am extroverted and social.
My online identity seems to show both information that I intentionally put out there as well as information that I did not. You could access me on the surface meaning find out what social media pages I may have and possibly connect previous organizations I have been a part of in my life but not know much about me on there. Even if you do happen to access a page that I may have and see a bit on there, it is not very telling of what I have going on in my personal life which I find to be a good thing. The information on the internet about me may portray me in many ways but it won’t be definitive because I know the person I am. Data footprints shouldn’t conclude the real identity of a person because all of the information on a person on the internet may be inaccurate.