A Reflection on Virtual Identity

This month I am both a participant and a co-facilitator for a professional development series called DigPINS. The first week of this series, we covered Identity within the realm of virtual as residents and visitors, personal and institutional. I’m participating to get to know others and experience the DigPINS. I’m considering it as a programming schedule for faculty in the upcoming year.

In this week, I reflected alongside other participants on my own digital identity and where I tend to sit with each of the tools, communities, and channels I use personally, professionally, and as a content contributor. It’s an interesting way to put my online and virtual presence in perspective of how permanent my contributions and consumption of media online is, both personally and professionally.

Two axis graph. Axes are visitor to resident on horizontal and personal to institutional on vertical. Not much is in the personal resident quadrant, most bubbles are on the left side under visitor and equally balanced between personal and institutional.
My virtual identity. Bubbles placed and sized according to the relationship on the two scales between Visitor – Resident and Personal – Institutional

Who am I online?

The first question for the week was for me to start with who I was online. I am many things outside of my literal self in the virtual world. For instance, I am a curator and creator of creative and thoughtful posts on Instagram, most of which are focused on the visual beauty and satire in the world I see. I’m majority passive consumer on Facebook and YouTube. I utilize some networks professionally and others for personal growth and information.

In general, I try not to leave a trace of anything I wouldn’t want to become a definition of me for another person.

What social traces do I leave?

I also curate an Instagram feed for my dog, who I love and care for and would not be the same person without. It’s an interesting challenge in creative writing. I write from his point of view and have attempted to formulate moods, vocabulary, and thoughts that are reflective of his age and developmental stage. I’m not expert, but it is an interesting project.

Beyond Instagram, I’m mostly an institutional visitor on the internet. I use Google, Podcasts, Research Journals, and Facebook as tools for life and work. When I do post to Facebook, it’s usually along two themes — Informative or Insightful. I even miss parties my peers plan because Facebook is their event invite platform, yet I only sign-on intermittently and only for a few minutes.

So, to answer this question honestly, I’m sensored and filtered heavily online. I’m not as open or sharing as I used to be. There is so much to know about me without it being online. I like to reserve these natural and spontaneous interactions for face-to-face time.

How would I like to start/continue curating or shaping your digital presence and identity?

In years past, I was an aspiring regular contributor to professional eLearning blogs. I started this blog as a part of an assignment during my Master’s Degree. To keep it going, I scheduled a block of time each week to write. As with many endeavors, life caught up with me, I became busy (as any Instructional Designer), and let it sit. I’d like to get this back on my radar.

Additionally, my Instructional Design and Technology team has a blog where we are co-authors and pass the posting responsibilities between us. So far, we’ve had a go at getting it off the ground with initial content, but haven’t had a chance to really make it a priority yet. We’re hopeful we can start contributing to the world of Higher Education and Learning Experience Design in the upcoming school year on a greater scale both with our faculty and in the greater community.

Where does this tie in with academia?

Great question! As Laura Pasquini writes in her article “Why Academics Need a Digital Persona,” sharing our work and practices online is becoming vital to opening dialogues and disseminating information that is credible where credibility has been diminished in recent years. Using this virtual world to support and boost the accessibility of our work is powerful.

Further, I began my career in research. I was required to write blog posts on the literature reviews I was doing for grant applications. Many covered topics of public health and communications. I felt empowered to share the knowledge I was gaining and join the network and team as a contributor.

I was 22 researching and writing about how to communicate about cancer related to trust, self-disclosure, empathy, and conflict management — topics that have influenced the rest of my life and interpersonal awareness. As an semi-academic, I believe I not only learned from this contribution to the field of health communications, I also collaborated with seasoned academics and doctors in the process, ultimately influencing my perspective on accuracy and dissemination of important information. These people became my first mentors in how to curate information for online consumption and filtering while considering our public health trends and population needs.

I didn’t touch on everything outlined in my identity map above, yet find this reflection was powerful in trying to determine where I am present online and how I might be aware from here and forward as a contributing and responsible educational development community member.