Omni-directional expansion of the ‘Google me’: exploring my digital footprint in 10 screenshots

Hello, and welcome to thing no.3 of the #23things course (also, this is my 100th post on this blog)… As I mentioned previously I am taking part in this course together with my team. If you are curious about our approach read the post, but here it is in a nutshell: we have given ourselves permission to lurk, audit, explore or participate in each thing as we deem fit on an individual basis. So… this is my attempt to contribute:

img_4038This task starts with searching for yourself on Google and that’s where I have paused. It feels strangely personal writing about my own search results, but then of course that is the point of the exercise. This information is already in the public domain and easily discoverable by anyone. Why did searching for myself give me reason to pause? I want to explain why, using 10 screenshots I took:

Front page: The most public version of ‘me’ is on the first page of results. Like most of you I monitor the information about me online regularly and the results presented here are what I expected. It’s sometimes surprising how high events I participate in appear in the search results, but so far, so good.

img_4036Old News: In contrast to the first search results, this is not a list I look at frequently, but I’m already uncomfortable. Giving interviews or quotes is a circumspect business but no matter what I say it can read badly after a few years  (or sometimes far sooner). Looking at this list also reminds me that I am not consistent when it comes to archiving news items, so I suppose one advantage of having whatever you say archived and indexed is that you can compile at least a partial list at a glance. Next!

Videos: I often ignore how much video there is now of img_4037me. Granted, it’s a tiny amount in comparison to others, but not even 10 years ago there was no video of me at all. In most cases the video is a recording of a live event either in front of an audience or online. It’s often improvised, never polished and can make for cringe-worthy watching for me. On the other hand, some of my favourite moments in my professional life have been in front of an audience, so on balance I think I am glad to have these videos and hope that some are useful or interesting to others.

And now… images: this is where you can go down all sorts of rabbit holes and find surprises. First up: pictures in weird settings or combinations:

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Images I have no control over and that are ranked highly, can feel like an annoying part of my digital footprint. In other instances the images are not of me, but made by me or posted by me at some point in the past. It can be fun to rediscover a former self , but it strongly reminds me that each time I publish anything, this post included, I make a decision to add to this expansion of stuff about or by me:

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Some images, like this one above for example, I posted at some point and thought I had removed. Others, like the one below, are a blast from the past. In this instance it shows an outdoor trade-show of funerary wares, mainly coffins, that I visited as part of my doctoral research.

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Finally, there are also images I post on sites like JustGiving, when I was raising money for Cancer Research. I am not sure how I will feel seeing this in a few years time, particularly if my personal circumstances or those of my family are different by then. What if you find images of raising funds for someone who is no longer with you? img_4035

All of this information about me is on the surface. I haven’t really started digging into what else you can find about me online and there are dire warnings about what can be done with personal information that isn’t safeguarded. That’s one reason why I am taking part in this course. Being online, particularly as an open practitioner, is making yourself vulnerable. Josie Fraser gave an inspiring keynote at ALT’s Annual Conference this year and I’ll end this post by encouraging you to watch it. Don’t let trolls follow your digital footprints…

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