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Cybersleuthing & Digital Identity

Although I wouldn't consider myself a detective, my twin brother is a Police Officer, so maybe I've naturally absorbed some of skills?!? Marcus Z was my chosen suspect in this case, someone who was guilty of something, I just didn't know what yet.. I should provide full disclosure that Marcus and I are somewhat acquainted as we have a mutual friend and actually attended a weekend event in the summer together. However, thankfully this post is about online presence and not any of the shenanigans that may have previously occurred together. In trying to complete my detective task, my first step was to use a simple Google search of Marcus' name. The first few results that pop up involve his current professional role as a teacher with Regina Catholic Schools, as well as some Facebook profiles that do not appear to be this Marcus. I also found his Instagram profile, a link to some of his old hockey stats, and some other links that definitely don't appear to be him. In continuing my search onto the second page of Google search results, I realized I was venturing into an almost unknown universe! No one really looks at the second page of Google results do they?? However, I did find that navigating to this second page actually did provide me with his Twitter account, although I already had been following him, so this wasn't super valuable information.

As I navigated these initial results, I was able to 'discover' or rather, confirm, some information about Marcus that I was already aware of. I found out the school he teaches at, something I knew because my mutual friend is his co-worker, but I also was able to identify this as he has his own page under the RCSD heading with a picture of the school logo in the background. Given that I knew Marcus, I was able to locate him on Facebook, even though we weren't currently friends and he doesn't use his last name. This may be because we had a mutual friend and potentially because his wife's account is linked which uses his last name. Facebook, as it always seems to be, was the best source of information regarding Marcus. Even though we aren't Facebook friends, I was able to traverse most of his posts, some going back over a decade, as his privacy settings allowed for it. Marcus has obviously taken some steps to ensure his account is private because he doesn't use his last name, so I was surprised that I was still able to view previous posts and photos, but it did give me some insight into his background. Facebook has shifted from being the main form of social media, to one that is used sparingly to only share major events. Marcus' posts very much resembled mine, as we are around a similar age, and our lives have taken a somewhat similar trajectory. Early years of Facebook involve lots of friends and social events, while now they are focused on major life events such as marriage and the birth of our children while the frequency of posts has dramatically diminished. In looking back at these past posts, it really resonated with me about how we present a certain view of ourselves on social media. The article about Madison Holleran provided insight into how we present a certain image about our lives and our level of happiness that may not always be accurate. Facebook is a different modality than Instagram because others can tag you in posts (although you can still filter these), whereas Instagram is only what we put out there for people to see. It got me thinking about these distinct digital identities that we present, that truly are different to how we may present in person.

Online Identity and Social Media

I have met people in recent years that are Instagram influencers and "Regina famous," and was shocked to find that these individuals who put themselves out there, including posting what appears to be intimate details about their lives (and sometimes intimate photos), are actually incredibly shy, quiet, or reserved in person. This seems so contradictory to what you would expect. If someone is willing to share that much about themselves online, you would assume that they are that outgoing and outspoken in person, but obviously that isn't the case. The article about multiple online identities really helped me make sense of this. The digital world provides people an opportunity to present a specific part of their personality, and maybe allows a certain level of comfort and confidence that isn't present in their interactions with people in person. This makes me think about the value that it provides to some people in building their confidence, but also allowing them to build connection and develop a community that may not be accessible in their day-to-day life. The value of social media is something that I've weighed in recent years, but I do think that there are downfalls to this too. Monica Lewinsky's talk about the impact of public shaming and judgement was truly reflective as her experienced happened even prior to social media was rampant. Although there is value in developing community, sometimes social media - Twitter and Facebook namely - provide a space for negative communities to thrive and feed off of each other. Whether it is shaming someone for one ill-advised tweet, or finding others with like-minded views to start an insurrection with, the power of technology and social media are powerful pieces that need to allow us to reflect on both their benefits and disadvantages. Digital identity is such a difficult thing to navigate, it provides us a space to express ourselves in a way that we may not feel comfortable to otherwise, but it also provides us a space to say things, tweet things, or express things that we may not do in person. Sometimes the benefits of human to human interaction allows us to filter all of our thoughts, and to think twice before we speak, whereas these online networks kind of remove that important consideration. Ultimately, regardless of what you think about social media, digital identity, and technology, it is something we all have to adapt to, reflect about, and intentionally plan for in education because it is becoming a more and more integral piece of our overall identity as every day passes.

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