Future of your digital self

Editor’s Note: On Nov. 15, 2012, Western News celebrated its 40th anniversary with a special edition asking 40 Western researchers to share the 40 THINGS WE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE NEXT 40 YEARS. This is a web-exclusive entry. To view the entire anniversary issue, visit the Western News archives.

The meaning of ‘being’ has completely shifted in a digital world.

It is indeed not as easy to just be online as it is offline. Being oneself online is a combination of digital traces consisting of pictures, updates, wall posts, comments and likes. But not only that, it also consists of how everyone else interacts with us: linking, commenting, liking, updating, poking, etc.

How we present ourselves online is probably going to be one of the largest challenges in the next 40 years (or even more).

You may wonder: What does a wall post have to do with who ‘I’ really am. But in a digital world you never know who is watching (friends, colleagues and strangers) and how they are making sense of the information you have posted.

So what we say about ourselves is going to leave lasting digital traces that can have real effects on real people, communities, events, trends, etc.

Anabel Quan-Haase is a Sociology professor in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies. Diane Rasmussen is a Library and Information Science professor in the Faculty of Media and Information Studies.