If someone were to ask you the three traits that define you as a human being, what would your response be? It’s a loaded question, isn’t it? Do you mean, what defines me as a teacher? As a sister? As a wife? Or, all around? While the true definition of what makes us, “us” is certainly complex, for those of us who grew up in a time where social media was absent, our “identity” was seen as something seemingly less complex and assumptive and as something that was a whole lot more private.
Everyone can remember the excitement of visiting one of your friend’s houses for the first time. Particularly, getting to see what types of toys they played with, what color their room was painted, and what posters they chose to hang on the wall. I remember thinking that I could tell a lot about my friends’ siblings by walking by their bedrooms and seeing what was hanging on their walls or the type of music that could be heard blaring behind their door. Then, how we chose to express ourselves was in the comfort of our own homes, or through the accessories we would wear out in public. What our friends saw in the comfort of our own homes helped reveal our true aspirations, hobbies, and style. Oh, how the times have changed.
I’ve reiterated Sklar’s comments in previous posts and in my initial vlog for this class as well, but I’ll say it again: Digital Identity is the new identity. And, as Kelsie and Krista’s vlog this week reminds us, “students have continuous access to technology” which means that their identity is constantly being expressed in the things that they do, say, like, tweet, and share online. As Amy and Anne shared in their reading related to their assignment this week, “Outside school, children are engaging with these media, not as technologies but as cultural forms” (Buckingham, p. 22). The way that we express our own personal identity has evolved into an acceptable cultural norm that we can’t turn off. We are no longer required to attend the private spaces of our peers in order to get a sense of who they really are.
While I certainly admire the advancement of information sharing and access to continued connection with friends and colleagues all over the world, who we “are” online can sometimes cause overly assumptive and dangerous thoughts about us, even if accidentally. Because our identities are revealed through games we play, the things we “like” and the apps we use, it is far more plausible that those who view a particular “moment” or image of us may jump to conclusions about us far faster than they would have ten years ago.
With such easy access to technology, it’s almost effortless to be able to take a new photo, put up a new status, or tweet out a new idea, putting these pieces of our identity higher on the viewing list (literally) than our previous expression of identity which could have been shared with the world mere seconds before. If I compare this to my earlier notion of expression of self in relation to the bedroom décor analogy, this would be like inviting a friend over to our house, showing them the poster on our wall in our room, then changing it right in front of them. Our sense of identity seems less permanent today, even though in reality, what we share is actually more permanent online than it was offline.
This class has helped me reflect on the importance of my digital identity and the power of digital identity as an educator and an administrator. Wendy said it perfectly in her vlog for this week when she said, “we need to as educators, engage with digital technology the same way our students are already doing.” I can’t possibly teach about digital identity if I don’t take the time to engage in creating a positive digital presence for myself. When I think of the future of my own digital identity, I know that the climate I create with my online presence will only be as influential as I allow it to be.
When I think of the future of our students’ digital identities, it really reiterates what we’ve discussed in regards to digital citizenship and the importance of teaching students how and what to express about themselves in regards to their digital identities. With the fast-paced nature of technology, the constant uploading, retweeting, snap story changing culture we live in today, there is a definite pressure for individuals to continue to update their identity. Who we are now is not who we were in yesterday’s story. While this notion is certainly true to an extent, I do believe that this added pressure to divulge, update, and transform our digital identity can put stress on youth unlike the type of stress that most of us felt growing up without social media.
I know we can’t go back to that time, and frankly, I wouldn’t want to. But, there has to be a way that we can slow things down a little bit and remind those around us that it’s okay to continue to create who we want to be as individuals even when others aren’t watching and that it’s okay to just be.