The responsibility (tyranny) of the digital footprint

Do our digital footprints have more impact?

I recently decided to update my professional photo online, having had my picture taken for an academic journal cover featuring research with a colleague. I normally update my social media every month, but I had never sat down to make a list of all of the places I have a profile. In discussing a similar task with a colleague who just received a promotion, the magnitude of the task hit me. How does one keep a digital footprint current when there are ever increasing places where we as academics might be expected to have a profile?

My digital footprint started out small and purposeful. My name has a unique spelling so if you google me, you get – me! When I was on the academic job market, I positioned myself as someone whose research could be found as I realized how much that would help my research get to the people who most need to read it. I keep Twitter professional and I have this personal blog where I write about professional topics.

Once I got a position, my responsibilities increased. I update my faculty profile regularly, but the platform is currently in flux so there are two, as well as a university profile to promote graduate supervision. We were encouraged to start a Google Scholar profile and I thought I should try my hand at LinkdIn, Researchgate and

Now I realize I am swimming in profiles. While I had set up an OrcID, I didn’t realize that I needed to keep up a profile, otherwise when people click on the number, nothing comes up! As well, I have to keep up a SSHRC CCV for funding purposes and an additional internal one for merit, tenure and promotion.

My list now consists of six places where my photo appears and twelve that I update whenever I get a new publication. It is too late to go back to the pre-digital footprint world as I cannot bear to leave any of these out-of-date, but over the course of this next year, I will give some serious thought as to how/whether there are platforms I will drop. Making this list has motivated me to revisit how I organize this blog so that I can provide different information here than I do on the other platforms. Perhaps in doing these two things, I can reduce the feeling that my digital footprint is tyrannizing me.

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