The timeless quote goes something like this ‘First impression is the Last impression’ which emphasizes the importance of making everlasting impressions. In the digital era, we often meet people on the internet before we meet them in person.
Imagine, a situation where you are due to meet someone for the first time. What would you do before the meeting? You would likely Google them, maybe see their full profile on Linked In, Facebook and Instagram, as well as any quotes from them on Google through articles, membership at clubs or universities. In effect, you are trying to create a mental picture of the person from readily available digital resources. You will make further impressions of them based on their photos – what they eat, where they travel, what they wear and how do their friends and family look like, what views they express in their social media quotes and which brands and organizations they endorse. Moreover, you will check on other information which is available – what have other people writing about them and what have their past experiences been. All this is available on the internet, and everyone uses it to know other people before they meet them in person.
There is no escaping the reality, that impressions are going to be made based on our digital footprint, then this dimension of your existence cannot be ignored. Excuses such as I am not a Facebook kind of person, am incredibly private, and do not mind what is written about me on social media are no longer acceptable. Because ignoring the internet will not be a suitable alibi as people will use it to find things about you and make an assessment. For example, a potential employer, who may scrape the internet to find out whether you have demonstrated unruly or unprofessional behavior, will not give you an allowance if you choose to ignore the contents of the internet.
So acknowledging your identity on digital media is the first crucial step that you can take on managing this dimension of our existence. However, it does not stop there. You would need to manage it entirely, by giving a projection of yourself by which you would want others to know you.
For instance, there may be someone who is a businessperson and may wish to give an impression that he is professional and with high integrity, that overlay theme should transcend not only his Linked In but all his social media including Facebook and Instagram. He should make sure that people are not putting photos or mentions of him that tends to distort this messaging.
We may want to start with first working a Digital strategy for ourselves – how we want people to view us and what message we want to pass to others. All our subsequent posts should corroborate to that persona that we want to portray to people.
More people are joining social media, creating identities, uploading photos and videos. It is still growing rapidly with the increase in internet users. All this leads to identity creation for individuals. It can be used to gather data about individuals even before meeting them.