The first time I left my trace in the digital world is when I first created my email address. Believe it or not, firstname.lastname@example.org was made in the year 2001. Thank God, the 7-year-old me did not think of stupid usernames like cute_evan_2001 or megadragonfart69. I had an email at a very early stage in my life because I often see my parents use the computer a lot for emails. So as any kid would be, I was curious and joined the online community for the very first time.
It’s kind of awesome to know that my email has been existing for more than a decade now and I’ve used it for practically everything web-related. These include but are not limited to academic web tools, games and social networks. In my opinion, digital footprints are most evident in social networks. This is because social networks give you more options to express certain characteristics that usually differ among other people. You don’t see JSTOR asking you what your favorite movies are.
My first social network involvement was in Friendster. If I remember correctly, I joined it when I was 12 (the required age was 16, so I’m considering myself a badass) because my cousins forced me to, so that I can give them what Friendster called “testimonies”. Sadly I can no longer access visual traces of my Fs account. But from what I remember, my name there was Qt Evan. I’m not sure if this is obvious but Qt is short for cute. From that you can deduce that my 12-year-old self was weird and jeje. I had a whole album dedicated for anime wallpapers. Thinking about it now makes me feel silly about my past self.
Facebook came a lot later. I joined when I was in 4th year high school. I was encouraged to join because of the games. But later it was for more than games. You can use Facebook to represent your identity as if it was you in real life (more than Friendster could anyway). As much as possible, I try to stay true to how I represent myself online. Through a very limited screen capture of my Facebook profile, one can already deduce things about me:
- In the profile picture, I am obviously the one carrying the baby since babies don’t use Facebook; they’re underage, it’s against the rules.
- My cover photo is JL8 – mini justice league characters. From that, you can say that I am a Justice League fan, a DC comics fan in general or a pedophile.
- The “About” on the lower left shows that I am taking BS MIS in Ateneo and I live in Manila; Tondo, specifically.
Let’s try this with my Twitter profile:
- My header shows a picture of Stitch, so that means I am a fan of Stitch. This is wrong. In actuality, I am OBSESSED with Stitch.
- The background is Flash carrying Iris West away from danger. Clearly I am a fan of Flash. But the presence of the overly-obvious romantic essence of the picture could mean that I am a hopeless romantic. There’s also the chance the whole thing means that I’m a Flash wannabe fan.
- The photos and videos category shows 6 panels of videos that are game trailers. That could mean I like playing games or that could also mean that I just like watching games being played.
- I used effin’ as an adjective for the blog. No offense though, I hate acads in general.
A lot of different things can be derived from the little details that are shown in social network sites. These are not just from photos, videos or descriptions but also posts, comments, tweets or even likes. Little as they are, they are all part of what defines oneself.
However there are times that people take advantage of how social networks are not that transparent to show themselves as people who they’re not and as people who they want to be. If there’s a possibility to hide aspects of yourself that you do not want to be seen then why not? I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. Sometimes it is just a way to compensate for something that one cannot be or do in real life.