Last week during #journchat, I saw a reference to a post titled Does Your Twitter Handle Belong on Your Resume? The author is a PR college student, and the conversation around the post is mainly tactical, but the bigger picture surrounding our online identities is one I’ve been wanting to address for some time, so this gives me the opportunity. I’ll briefly cover some basic points about the nature of online space, but then I want to dig into the opportunities that are available in a networked culture.
#1. The Web is made up of mediated publics.
I think the first time I heard the term “mediated publics” was in a paper written by danah boyd while she was still a PhD candidate. In it, she described social networks as a type of public space, but with four unique properties:
- Persistence – What you say sticks around. This is great for asynchronous communication, but it also means that what you said at 15 is still accessible when you are 30 and have purportedly outgrown those childish days.
- Searchability – My mother would’ve loved the ability to scream “Find!” into the ether and determine where I was hanging out with my friends. She couldn’t, and I’m thankful. Today’s teens’ parents have found their hangouts with the flick of a few keystrokes.
- Replicability – Digital bits are copyable; this means that you can copy a conversation from one place and paste it into another place. It also means that it’s difficult to determine if the content was doctored.
- Invisible audiences – While it is common to face strangers in public life, our eyes provide a good sense of who can overhear our expressions. In mediated publics, not only are lurkers invisible, but persistence, searchability, and replicability introduce audiences that were never present at the time when the expression was created.
A quick review of these characteristics serve as a good reminder that what you do/say/post online is effectively being done in public. When framed in this context, the results of much of the research being done around managing online information seem expected. For instance, take a look at this chart, taken from ‘Recruiters really care about your online reputation even if you don’t.’ The top five reasons mentioned here to reject a candidate for recruitment are things that would be equally inappropriate if done directly in front of that potential employer. Continue reading