digital identity

How to Curate Your Digital Identity as an Academic

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If you don’t manage your online presence, you are allowing search engines to create it for you


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In 2009, anyone who searched my name on the web would first encounter the opinions of a disgruntled Midwestern undergraduate who lambasted me for being an unfair, unprofessional, and essentially ignorant professor. […]


So how might academics—particularly those without tenure, published books, or established freelance gigs—avoid having their digital identities taken over by the negative or the uncharacteristic? […]


Take control. In a nutshell, if you do not have a clear online presence, you are allowing Google, Yahoo, and Bing to create your identity for you. As a Lifehacker post on this topic once noted: “You want search engine queries to direct to you and your accomplishments, not your virtual doppelgangers.” […]


In building your website or landing page, you might include typical sections like About Me, Courses, CV, Blog, and Contact. An About Me page should feature your name, a bio, and a personal picture or your universal avatar, which I’ll discuss below. This page or blurb should offer visitors a quick glimpse of who you are—and whether or not they’ve found the right “Professor Smith” or “Dr. Jackson.” Keep in mind that the About Me page is also usually one of the highest-ranked. For random visitors, hiring committees, and potential students, it is also nice to feature a list of your current and/or past courses. Links to PDF versions of your syllabi work here as well. The same goes for the CV page. Some scholars prefer having online versions of their CVs, with links to their degree-granting institutions, books, publications, and awards. But again, an up-to-date PDF version is just as acceptable. […]


Build a network. Now that you have created a webpage about your professional persona, link to it everywhere you can, especially in the bio sections of your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Vitae, and/or Google accounts. Those social-media sites rank highly in online searches, so create an account with them, whether or not you plan to use it consistently. Even a social-media site like, which I rarely visit and don’t find helpful in connecting with others, is the sixth result in my name search. […]


Practice uniformity. You want your digital identity to be consistent. To that end, choose a picture of yourself—an actual photograph, an avatar, or perhaps an image that conveys your field (e.g., the symbol for pi, tap shoes, Freud’s face)—and upload it everywhere you’ve linked to your website. […]


As with your CV, you should keep your online persona up to date. […]


Monitor yourself. To monitor your digital identity, it’s wise to create a Google Alert and a Google Scholar Alert for your name and website. For Google Scholar, you might also include searches for some of your specific writings and studies. That way, you’ll be made aware of anything published online—well, anything Google crawls—that includes your name, website, and/or publications. (One Forbes contributor has argued that IFTTT surpasses Google Alerts, although I’ve not tried the service in that way.)


Writing for Moveable Type’s blog, Robert Minton asks us to think about the possibilities that a personal website and self-created digital identity bring. Again, as a graduate student in 1999, with the software I had, I was able to upload to the Internet mostly text-based information: simple handouts, directions, a CV. Now, of course, we can share photos, videos, testimonials, downloadable newsletters, PowerPoint or Keynote presentations—in short, anything we’ve created and are proud of.


Don’t forget this as well: Creating and maintaining an online presence “demonstrates your proficiency in navigating and understanding the modern web,” Minton writes. “It’s one thing to flaunt your technical savvy in a bulleted list of skills. It’s another to be able to show off a website you’ve created and managed on your own.”



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