The image constructed after performing a series of searches is quite different from my actual self. I have found that what is on the internet is rather incomplete in representing my self-identity. I do not necessarily share everything about myself online but I also do not place much importance in privacy, as I have all my social media accounts public. After extensive googling (using Google Chrome Incognito and other search engines) to construct my online identity, it is clear that this is representative of my academic and extracurricular persona but is incomplete in terms of my interests and personality.
Defining My Online Data Identity
Google Search "Aidan Haase"
Doing a quick google search of “Aidan Haase” yields a first page of results that includes my LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook. Roughly half of the results on the first page were for other people with the same name. Most of the information on the social media returned is hidden unless you log in and are friends with me, with images being an exception. Of these three, LinkedIn is the most revealing of my personal information as it contains more than just pictures with captions; it has all of my recent employment, academic, and extracurricular involvements relative to job and internship recruitment. If you continue to the second page of search results, you will find links to student organizations I’m in, my involvement as a Resident Advisor, and high school sports records for track and tennis. Every track meet and tennis match from high school was either mentioned in the news or logged on stats websites such as athletic.net, so there is extensive information searchable for my sports history. If you go into the 3rd page and beyond, one will begin to see obituaries of close relatives and links to other family members in the news.
Looking on the relevant images that google returns, only 4 are of myself and all from high school sports. Constructing an image of my persona using the search results of only my name would be difficult and incomplete. The current involvements found on LinkedIn and in some deeper search result pages would be representative of my academic persona, but none of my interests are obvious. Much of the information on the social media platforms is outdated given my posting frequency and it would similarly be incorrect to assume my sports interests are consistent with high school.
Modified Google Search
Doing a Google search with my current institution after my name yields more current, representative information of my current self. On the first page of search results, one can see links to my involvement in Michigan Community Scholars Program, my involvement in Center for Healthcare Engineering and Patient Safety, and my MCommunity Profile which, after finding my name, lists a slew of academic and employment involvements. Additionally, every link on the first page of google in this search applied directly to me instead of others with the same name. It reinforces and better constructs the academic and extracurricular components of my online persona as the current involvements are more readily available. This search therefore gives a better sense of who I am than a google search of just my name alone, yet still has a lot of gaps.
Comparing the Search Queries
This second google search creates a more accurate online identity and is both more accurate and stable in terms of my professional self. Even though the first google search yields my LinkedIn, this second search includes this and much more, such as my MCommunity Profile. It is stable in that every time a big academic, employment, or research-related event occurs in my life I update my LinkedIn. My MCommunity also automatically updates with any new university activities, which also contains some information that I do not have on my LinkedIn page. Constructing an online identity from the second search would be slightly more personal as it is updated from college involvements and contains less information on my old high-school self, yet still lacks many personal interests. Combining the two searches to create a single identity would be more complete in terms of my life as a whole, but could be outdated and skewed depending on how much emphasis is placed on the first search and with high school involvements.
A Note on Twitter
Given that all of my social media accounts are public, I usually take care to post things that are representative of myself and not too private of information. I have recently taken down my Twitter account, which is where I would retweet more political topics. If I had done this detailed search of myself months ago, the online data identity I would be able to construct for myself would better reflect different viewpoints that I have. With my ~5 years on twitter, I had retweeted countless tweets pertaining to social movements, left politicians, sports events, and hikes I wanted to do in the future. Had this information been accessible today, my argument would be different -- including this information, I would say that my online identity is representative of my self-identity. It is respectable and surprising for Twitter to honor their policy and delete the information associated with an account once it is deactivated (doing countless searches for specific tweets I remember creating yielded no results). Using Twitter to build my online identity at this point in time would therefore rely on other users saving my information and uploading elsewhere rather than Twitter itself.
Me vs. My Online Data Identity
The Disparity in Authenticity
Although these two google searches give way to an online persona that proves rather accurate and stable, it is quite inauthentic. Much of my online data identity consists of information posted by others via news articles, tags, or mentions in posts. The majority of these posts and articles on myself all have a common thread in that they demonstrate the highlights of my life. The posts I make and that I am tagged in are of memorable times and times that I want everyone to see. The articles with my name are all of sport or academic successes. The recruiting platforms such as LinkedIn are where I try to appear professional, experienced, and qualified to recruiters. Aggregating this information, it is clear that today I am much more that the image this online identity creates. This online data identity is unauthentic because it lacks many interests, passions, and involvements that represent who I am -- passions and interests such as civic engagement, social justice, plants, and personal life goals to name a few. Additionally, many of the personal barriers and challenges that I have overcome, barriers that have come to define my identity, are left out of the digital identity. Barriers such as mental health are left out because they do not qualify as “highlights” of my life from a social media perspective. It is not that I am hesitant to post about these personal challenges, it is that I don’t feel the need to share about them. The lack of authenticity in my data identity in this sense is therefore largely my doing, which is something I am fine with -- people do not need to be able to know the makeup of my character by doing a series of google searches.
Awareness of my constructed online data identity has many implications and limitations. The identity constructed may hold greater value on things that are out of date, such as high school events in the case of the first search query described. This identity also does not demonstrate authenticity of my personality as it is the more professional side of my persona. This identity is what potential future employers would see if they wanted to get an idea of who I am before an interview, for example. Yes, this does contain the highlights of my academic and professional life, but it does not encompass all of me. How my friends and family would describe me is different than how these potential employers would describe me. Moving forward, it is important to understand that this may be the case for many other individuals as well and to recognize the discrepancies that may exist between people’s self identity and their online identity by not making assumptions.