Creating Digital Identities: Who Do You Want To Be?

Last week, I started off the discussion about creating digital identities for doctoral students. There’s no one right way to get started with this. I don’t have a set of steps for you to engage in (either by yourself or with your students). But I do think that as you launch into creating a digital identity it’s important to consider these questions:

  • who do you want to be?
  • what do you want to be known for?

The thing about creating your online identity is that you control it. Yes, people can post stuff about you but you control what you say and present about yourself. So before you start putting stuff out there, take the time to consider what it is you want to be known for and who you want to be known to. The assumption within all of the posts that will be a part of this series is that we are working in creating a professional digital identity.

For example, I use this blog to talk about my teaching practices. While some of what I write will likely cut across audiences my primary audience is people in higher education. I write about teaching in higher ed. I share my teaching practices, and I try to make my thinking on my teaching public.

I want people to think of me as innovative (because that’s just nice), but I also want them to see me as someone who is truthful and honest about my work. I want readers to know that I will share the process of teaching with them. This means you get to hear my perspective on what’s working and where my struggles are. You also get a front row seat to see how my teaching practices evolve over time. Hopefully there is information here you can use.

Think Of Who You Are & Find Your Medium

Once you figure out your purpose, then you can start to think about your platform. It could be that a blog makes good sense, but there are many other options too including twitter, you tube, instagram, and medium. Of course you don’t have to limit yourself to one (and I don’t think you should!) and you also don’t need to be everywhere at once. It could be helpful to play around a bit.

Additionally, you might think you know what you want your purpose to be but then later find out that purpose isn’t as exciting or useful as you had hoped. It could even shift over time. I think this is natural, and I see no harm in fine tuning your identity as you develop it. If anything that’s just normal. Ultimately, I think if you find something you want to publicly share/promote/examine AND you are passionate about it then you can’t go wrong.

Moving Forward

For the month of October, try to put the above steps in action. I see it breaking down like this:

  • If you are a professor, and do not have a digital identity, start with yourself. Figure out a tool that you want to play with and give it a try. Share your research and/or teaching.
  • If you are a doctoral student, and you also do not have a digital identity, this is a great time to start. When considering what to share with the world, keep in mind your audience. For example, I don’t think that many people would want to read my summaries of current research. However, they might be very interested in hearing about the process of my research.
  • If you are a professor with a digital identity start assisting doctoral students with crafting their own. You can do this 1–1 or in a small group. Have students share their ideas and how they want to implement them. Examine the tools everyone is using and take a look at the content everyone is creating. Give and get feedback.

Doctoral students are in a position where their identities will naturally shift over time. This will depend on where they are in the program when they start doing digital identity work. Additionally, as students graduate and shift into a job the content and purpose of their work will shift as well. This makes perfect sense. Do what you do best now, but always keep your audience in mind.

One Year Ago

Two Years Ago

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Originally published at on October 10, 2016.

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