Social Media and Your Digital Identity


Today’s social media landscape provides students with a variety of ways to engage in good, bad and even ugly behaviors. Learn how to be an effective steward of your online self by keeping these things in mind.

It’s important to understand the idea of (no) privacy

Even though you can adjust privacy settings and seemingly control who sees what on social media, there is really no such thing as privacy on the internet. Everything is searchable and if one person can see something then, really, everyone can see it.


  • When sharing an Instagram photo through another social channel like Facebook or Twitter, that photo has a specific URL. If someone has that URL, they can see your photo – it doesn’t matter if your account is private or not.
  • Even platforms like SnapChat (where users can set an “expiration date” for their photos) do not provide air-tight privacy for your content. Someone can take a screen shot of your photo before it expires and therefore completely negate the idea of expiration.

Remember that everything is searchable

Tools like Hoot Suite and Tweet Deck make access to specific social media content as easy as a Google search.


  • An employee of a company may Tweet a complaint about their job. If they mention the name of the company they work for, that Tweet will come up if the company performs a search for any social posts that include their company name. Many brands do this as a regular practice. So, it’s best to think before you post.
  • Since Facebook has been around since 2004, this means that it has almost ten years worth of content for over one billion users. And, even if we delete things from our Timeline, that doesn’t always mean that it’s not being store elsewhere. So, that content that you thought you deleted may still be out there and accessible to search engines.

Have an appropriate user name and profile photo

Do not incorporate profanity, sexual innuendo or slang into your user name. Just sticking to your real name is a good practice. Your profile photo says a lot about you. You can post deep, thought-provoking content all day long, but if your profile photo or user name is unprofessional, it can quickly ruin credibility.

Social media amplifies inappropriate behavior

It’s not uncommon for students to engage in illicit behavior and then post about it on social media. Posts range from lying to an RA to underage drinking to drug use. Social media did not create this bad behavior, but it does amplify it. As a student, you need to remember to make responsible decisions and – perhaps even more importantly – stop posting inappropriate things on social media.

Google +

Although it hasn’t quite caught on as a household name in terms of social media, as a student who may want to get a job one day, it is important to have a Google+ account. It will increase your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and ensure that your name is at the top of online searches when employers are searching for you.

Find a role model

Find a role model who does a great job of using social media and follow them – it may be a professor, a student leader, a career advisor or a peer. Pattern your usage after theirs as you learn how to utilize social media to the fullest extent as a tool to effectively manage your digital identity.

Presenter Bio:

Eric Stoller (@ericstoller) is a higher education thought-leader, consultant, writer, and speaker. He frequently gives keynotes on how administrators can use social media strategically and is a proponent for teaching students about digital identity development. With a background in student affairs, academic advising, wellness, technology, and communications, Eric focuses his energies on educating clients and captivating audiences. As the Student Affairs and Technology blogger for Inside Higher Ed, he generates conversations, answers questions, and provides insight about a variety of “tech topics.”


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