Digital skills: succeeding in a digital world
Digital skills: succeeding in a digital world

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Digital skills: succeeding in a digital world

1.2 First steps to a good digital footprint

If you are fairly new to life online, it is natural to feel cautious about what you disclose to others. On the other hand, you may be used to sharing quite freely without giving it much thought. By learning a bit more about how to manage your digital footprint, you will be better equipped to stay in control of the information about you that others can see online.

Being in control of your own information is becoming more and more important when applying for jobs. Many employers look at the digital profile of prospective employees and the recruitment process itself increasingly takes place online. One blog author suggests that 89 per cent of recruiters have hired someone through LinkedIn, and that 73 per cent of 18 to 34-year-olds found their last job through a social network (Medved, 2014).

In real life, you probably behave differently with your friends and family than you do at work. Online it’s important to think about the image you are projecting to others and who might be reading what you put there. The following activity will help you to see the sort of information that can show up in someone’s digital footprint.

Activity 2 Spy file

Timing: 30 minutes

A private eye has been investigating the digital footprints of Manuela, Michael and John by searching for their names on the internet to see what she can find out about them. This is not unlike the sort of research an employer might do on a prospective employee.

  • Read each of the reports to find out what our detective uncovered.
  • Make your own notes about whether you think the information revealed is positive, should have stayed private, or is broadly neutral.
  • Select ‘Hear the reaction’ to find out what each of them thought (transcripts are available).


Read the report:

  • Manuela is mentioned a few times in her children’s Facebook posts and Instagram pictures.
  • Her name comes up in a blog post that one of her motor-racing friends wrote following an event they both attended
  • She once did a parachute jump for charity and a video of the occasion was made; a search for her name retrieves this.

Hear her reaction:

Download this audio clip.Audio player: Manuela’s reaction
Skip transcript: Manuela’s reaction

Transcript: Manuela’s reaction

I knew my children liked to share photos on Facebook and Instagram. Mostly I don’t mind. I’ve never really worried about it, but I’m really not happy that there’s a photo of me having a nap after Christmas lunch. I look so stupid in that paper hat. It would be better if that were private because I don’t want people to get the wrong impression of me.

I didn’t know that my friend had written about me in his blog. I’m really flattered and I don’t mind because he didn’t write anything personal.

I really want to be in contact with other Formula One fans and I am now starting to realise I could be more involved in the online communities. In fact, I think I could even write my own blog. That could be really exciting.

I’d forgotten about that video of my parachute jump. It’s great to be reminded. And I’m fine about it being online.

End transcript: Manuela’s reaction
Manuela’s reaction
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


Read the report:

  • Michael has a page of ‘liked’ videos on YouTube. These include funny football ‘fails’ (e.g. people falling over), his 5-year-old granddaughter performing in her school play, and one about how to service his boiler (Michael wants to change career to become a trainer and his son is a British Gas engineer). This page comes up under a search for his name.
  • Photos of him at a recent football match have been shared by his son on Twitter.
  • His name comes up on Pinterest in a set of images his wife put together for her brother’s 50th birthday.

Hear his reaction:

Download this audio clip.Audio player: Michael’s reaction
Skip transcript: Michael’s reaction

Transcript: Michael’s reaction

My family introduced me to YouTube, but I’m not on it much. I’d forgotten I tried to set up an account years ago, which is a bit worrying. Actually, I think it was my son trying to teach me how to set it up: we’ll never be able to remember how to log in after so long. I don’t remember liking those videos, but they’re OK. I may watch them again. I’m not happy about the video of my granddaughter being up there though. I don’t like the thought of people I don’t know watching it.

See, I’ve never really been sure about Twitter. Isn’t it just people posting photos of what they’re eating? But I did like those photographs of me and James at the footy – brought back happy memories.

I really don’t know what Flickr is. I think our photos should be private, but Margaret doesn’t agree with me.

End transcript: Michael’s reaction
Michael’s reaction
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


Read the report:

  • A lot of his Facebook posts come up, not all of them showing him in a positive light; as well as photos of John and his friends out and about in pubs, clubs and at parties.
  • There are some mentions of someone with the same name who lived in America in the last century.
  • John has a LinkedIn profile that a careers adviser suggested he set up but he’s never added much to it, so it is not up to date.

Hear his reaction:

Download this audio clip.Audio player: John’s reaction
Skip transcript: John’s reaction

Transcript: John’s reaction

Oh dear. I’m a bit embarrassed about those Facebook posts. I was a lot younger then and I wasn’t really thinking about what I was doing. I don’t really want people to see that, because the way I think now is so different.

How funny that there’s someone else with my name. It’s so random. It’s a history thing, so it’s really interesting and it doesn’t bother me.

Mind you, it would be awkward if there was someone from today with my name, especially if he was writing things I don’t agree with. My careers advisor did tell me about LinkedIn, but I didn’t really see the point. I mean, I just thought it was for brainy boffins. I’ve got this job through a friend so I haven’t really needed it, but it looks like something I should try, and it would help me to get noticed. I might even get another job through it.

End transcript: John’s reaction
John’s reaction
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

All the information about Manuela, Michael and John is freely available online. Think about how this relates to your own experience of googling yourself.


You may find the idea of someone checking out your online activities in this way a bit alarming. However, in the same way that other people can ‘check you out’ online, you can also check someone’s digital footprint, for example, if you want to establish the credentials of someone you come across who you do not know in real life. You will return to the subject of how you can know who and what to trust online in later weeks of this course.

In the next section, you will think further about how you can learn online and interact with others while maintaining your privacy.


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