Saving face online was the topic of an online identity management course offered by UT Libraries on Thursday.
The course, accessible online and open to the public, was developed to help students conduct themselves professionally online and through social media. It was part of a Library Classes series aimed at both undergraduate and graduate students.
Krystal Wyatt-Baxter, instruction and assessment librarian who taught the course, used a webcam to speak to course attendees within an online chatroom. Her lecture was accompanied by a PowerPoint slides, YouTube videos and interactive polls. Course attendees spoke about a range of online identity management techniques, including a case study of Beyonce’s online life.
Elise Nacca, senior library specialist, said the course is open to all students but could be especially valuable for freshmen interested in developing their online identity early.
“With a mind for bringing attention to privacy issues online, we talk about tools to manage privacy online and thinking about how search engines like Google collect information for lots of reasons you may not know,” Nacca said.
Though the course was designed with students in mind, non-students, who saw the opportunity advertised online, were able to attend. Carl Webb, a former UT employee, took the course to learn about software that could help him control his identity online.
“I needed to take this course to learn where to go so I could actually track my activity,” Webb said.
Identity management online is incredibly important because it is the primary way in which people encounter information about others, according to Jeffrey Treem, communication studies assistant professor.
“Once you see something you can’t un-see it,” Treem said. “Research says those opinions formed online matter and help to shape subsequent opinions.”
Despite the potential risks of poor online identity management, Treem said that it is not only about what could go wrong.
“It’s not an issue of a false self, it’s not an issue of not putting bad info out there,” Treem said. “It’s about management. When you talk about management, it’s just as likely that you have that ability to shape information in a positive light that it is that you present information negatively.”
Robert Quigley, journalism senior lecturer, said it is important for students to think about what they are putting out to the public.
“I tell my students that now is the time to start building an identity that not only is not embarrassing, but also builds your own brand and identity online so that employers are able to hire you because of that,” Quigley said. “If you are constantly railing on people or constantly saying how much you hate everything, as an employer looking at that I am wondering if this is someone who is a team player.”
Quigley commented on the potential of using online identity management to market ideas, ambitions and aspirations.
“I think [online identity management is] an opportunity,” Quigley said. “As much as we worry about things that could go wrong, there’s a huge opportunity that wasn’t there, at least until 2008, to really build your own brand. That is something that could really help a student out in a future career.”