I have always been conscious of my usage of the internet. I originally created my social media accounts when I was in eighth grade, and I have been conscious of what I have put on them. Therefore, there is not much personal information about myself on these accounts. Still, I was curious to see my data identity. What type of person would a random user of the internet perceive me to be? Seen below, a simple Google search of my name does not yield much information (there are only three pictures in it that relate to me). The most information I was instantly able to access was through a site called michiganresidentdatabase.com. In order to locate more specific information about myself, I used searches with more keywords.
Due to my lack of interaction with various social media sites, I believed that my data identity would show a somewhat truthful yet incomplete version of myself.
When I search my name on Google, I am presented with a wide variety of links leading me to other people named Sean Fortney. With specific searching (i.e. "Sean Fortney Michigan"), I was able to locate more information about myself. These pieces, at the earliest, date back to my junior year of high school (not including my social media accounts). Some of the links led me to fond memories of the past such as my old Hudl page from when I played high school football at Brother Rice. However, some led me to some less pleasant memories such as my grandfather's obituary from 2018. What these two pieces of information do have in common, however, is that they do not tell one much information about myself, especially since they are both from years in the past. Yet, this searching excited me to look how my identity was shaped elsewhere on the internet. In order to get more specific information about myself, I looked to my various social media accounts to see how I had presented myself.
When I first created my social media accounts, I posted often. Now, I could go back a year and a half since my last post. I examined when this change occurred, why it occurred, and how the change impacted how others may view me through these accounts. I have four publicly accessible social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn). Each of these accounts present myself differently, but even together they do not paint a full picture of who I am. Below, I will go through each account, how my usage on that account has changed, and how this change has impacted my online persona.
If I were to choose one social media site to represent myself, I would choose Facebook, yet Facebook is the site which I have posted the least on. Below, I will go through why less posting has actually led to a more well-rounded presentation of myself.
I first signed up for Facebook in 2013, and my usage of the site has been consistent ever since. I have never posted anything of my own. If you go to my page, it is completely filled by photos of myself posted by others, mostly my family and friends. The reason this has presented a more true version of myself is because I have allowed others to post photos of myself rather than myself only posting photos that I might think are adequate to be on social media. The account is less about trying to make myself look good, but more about highlighting what is important to myself - family and friends. In the future, I doubt I will post more, especially with how I have seen other users interact with each other on the platform's feed which is filled with nasty political arguments. These arguments inevitably lead to presenting yourself in a poor light, and I do not plan on presenting myself online again in this way as I once did on Twitter.
Instagram and LinkedIn
The two other social media accounts that I own are an Instagram and LinkedIn account. Overall, these two accounts tell one very little about myself. On Instagram (shown on right), I have a private account, so I can control to whom I present this online identity. As seen, there is essentially no information available to people who I do not allow to follow the account. Even if one can view the account, there is very little information available. I only have about 20 posts, I untag myself from many of the photos I am tagged in, and my biography is very limited. On LinkedIn, the only additional information one can acquire are the places I have worked in the past. The account is purely for professional purposes, so there is minimal personal information about myself. Overall, these accounts do not identify me at all due to my limited usage.
Data Broker Sites
As I stated in the introduction, I viewed a site called michiganresidentdatabase.com. This site showed me some past addresses, and it was interesting to see the number of "Fortneys" that live in Michigan, but I was determined to find more. To accomplish this, I purchased a trial on truthfinder.com. The results were marginal. I only found my name along with the names of my relatives, but the rest was inaccurate. At first, I thought the site believed I was my father or grandfather (we all have the same name), but none of the information matched ours. The only correct information was my address. In the future, I will certainly examine other sites like this to see if their results are more comprehensive. Overall, this specific data site gave very limited information about my persona and even less that you could not acquire from another source of information. The one thing that this site did show was that I have a large family. So, if someone had seen both this site and my Facebook page which is full of family photos, they would understand that family is a very integral part of who I am.
Despite the limited information about myself online, I think one is able to get a decent idea of what kind of person I am. If someone wanted to get a general idea of my interests and likes, they would be able to get a good idea through my Facebook (family photos) and Twitter (sports). However, a search for any information beyond this such as my career aspirations would fall flat. Overall, my online identity is mostly comprised of my social media accounts which give a very brief, yet decently accurate depiction of myself. However, it is my opinion that no one has an accurate data identity. People are too complex to be defined by their online presence, and the existence of all this information online can lead people to develop false ideas about each other which can be both corrosive and dangerous. After completing this research, I have realized that judging people based on their online presence is a bad idea. This assignment also makes one question how they define themselves. It has made me think about what is important to me and why. As I stated, family is what is important to me and you can get a good idea about this through my online presence. The answer that I discovered to the "Why is family important to me?" was found through seeing how often my family posts about me. The answer: those who are close to me and care for me are what are important to me.