Active and Passive Digital Footprints

We’ve talked about how everything you post becomes part of your digital dossier or digital footprint, but did you know you have both an active and a passive footprint?  The active footprint is what YOU post online.  Your passive footprint is what others write or post about you.

As a good digital citizen, you want to create a positive image or ‘brand’. We’ve already mentioned that you need to search yourself online. To expand on that, add modifiers such as jobs, schools, and/or locations. You can also set up a google alert  so you know when something is posted about you.  Just like you check your credit history to make sure you have a positive financial image, you need to do the same thing digitally.

When creating an  Active Footprint, remember to think before you post!

Things you DON’T want to post: (hopefully we know this as adults, but it’s  good to share with our students and children)

  • Inappropriate pictures
  • Posts about drinking and/or drug use (even in states like Washington and Colorado where it is legal!)
  • Rants about current or previous employers and/or co-workers
  • Posts that use poor grammar and spelling
  • Posts that degrade or harass
  • Lies about your qualifications (this is especially true on professional sites like LinkedIn)

Things you DO want to post:

  • Positive things that highlight your personality
  • Things that show your creativity
  • Variety of interests and activities
  • Be proud of those awards (but remember the fine line between confidence and arrogance)
  • Express opinions but remember not to degrade those who disagree with you
  • If you wouldn’t say it in person, then you probably shouldn’t be posting it either

As for the Passive Footprint, what can you do?

  • Control your privacy settings – each social media site is different, make sure you’re aware of who can post about you in each setting
  • Watch what you share – keep personal information personal
  • Be selective of who you connect with on social media networks
  • Use your real name when creating profiles on networks – that silly email address will come back to haunt you
  • Be selective on which sites you join
  • Do a google search often, just like you do a credit check
  • If what you post is positive, it makes it difficult for others to post negatives about you

Remember, also, what you post about others becomes part of their digital footprint.

  • Is that unflattering picture of your sister really how you want people to see her?
  • Your daughter broke curfew, but do you really need to publicly shame her online?
  • Your significant other has to work late because someone messed up a big project, but does the world really need to know who it was and how it ruined your dinner plans?
  • Before you post, think of these three questions: Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?

What you post online never really goes away, even if you delete it. It’s not like leaving footprints in the sand. It’s more like walking through wet cement.



  1. Pingback: My Personal DF (i.e., Digital Footprint) | Tenacious Digital Immigrant

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