Helen Walker

I had some inclination as to what I might find when I embarked on this week’s task to search for my own online tracks and traces. Having previously been a senior leader in a secondary school, I occasionally Googled myself to check that all was well. I used to be in the local media a lot as I was the lead on a high profile new build project; however, that presence is no longer in the present and I wasn’t sure if those echoes and traces of my past role would remain.  In recent years I have adopted a coward’s stance when it comes to social media, so I wasn’t entirely sure about what confusions, absences or presence I might find.

The majority of the first page of the Google search was as expected. I knew about Helen Walker the actress and her car wreck…

Helen Walker

However, as I scrolled down the page, I was surprised to see my face:

First page of Google - bottom of page

This was a link to my one and only Google+ post, made earlier this year:


I know that Google are likely to promote posts from Google+ but it was really interesting to see that minor networking activity could result in such presence, especially as I didn’t get to one of my curated personae until page 4 of the Google search; I’m the second one from the bottom in this screen grab:

Finally my work

Clicking through on the Facebook and Linkedin links on this first page yielded the sort of results I would have expected; as these sites know it is me, I appear at the top of the results.


Linkedin - top 25 profiles

As for the rest of the Helen Walkers out there, they seem to be a very studious bunch, which is useful to me; I’d be happy to be confused with Dr. Helen Walker or to be thought of as an astronomer. If there is identity conflation and confusion, the other Helen Walkers aren’t letting the side down:


I had a play with some of the other search tools which were recommended to us. QuillConnect yielded some fascinating information about my Twitter story:


I found the information about my followers particularly enlightening; as I consider how I can build a more effective online presence, it’s good to know who is ‘influential’ so that my efforts can, perhaps, be more targeted:


It was also heartening to find out that our micro-network is a positive one:


I tried Wolfram Alpha but got a repeated error message:

WolframKlout was interesting though. Klout claims to measure influence based on your activity, connections, etc. across a range of social media sites. I tried it first with Facebook and got a rating of 10/100 (apparently the average is 40):


This, however, didn’t concern me too much as Facebook is very much a personal medium. I treat all my posts with caution (as though I was standing in the middle of my town pronouncing forth with a megaphone) but I don’t use my personal page for professional networking. The Twitter result, when it comes though in 24 hours, will be of greater interest as I see that as my professional feed. I’ll be interested to see what Klout advises in terms of building a presence; I have some concerns that it may just be a clever way to get me to distribute spam.

Given my sense of guilt about my own control of my social media presence, I was relieved by what I uncovered in my searching; my presence wasn’t large but nor was it negative. I found little that was historical and nothing created by anyone other than me. What I did find was recognisable as ‘me’; I didn’t feel the sense of disconnect or disjunct which Clara, Marshall and Nicola discussed. It will be interesting to repeat some of these activities in a few months time to see what impact my efforts to reinvigorate my social media are having.

Personae Paralysis

mediaThe task this week required us to search for our own online tracks and traces. As my primary feeling about my social media presence is guilt about not effectively maintaining it, I was worried about what I might find. Working as an edtech consultant, my professional life is fragmented: I work as a contractor for a number of different companies as well as running a number of my own. This complicates the construction and maintenance of my online personae: I work in different roles, for different companies, in different places. I am acutely conscious of the convergence of these professional roles when, for example, I update LinkedIn: might my followers be confused about who I work for or what I do? This nervousness around what Meyrowitz (quoted in boyd, 2014, p.31) terms ‘collapsed contexts’ has resulted in a form of social media inertia where I have simply avoided the effective creation and curation of both my ‘formal’ and ‘networked’ selfs (Barbour and Mitchell, 2012). As boyd notes, “the ability to understand how context, audience and identity intersect is one of the central challenges people face in learning how to navigate social media.” (p.30). This challenge has resulted in a form of paralysis for me: I created a ‘formal’ online presence on LinkedIn some time ago and left it at that.

This week’s readings and activities have proved to be a call to action. Ignoring my presence, ignoring the need to develop a professional persona is not an option if I want to maintain professional credibility. As Turkle notes (quoted in boyd, 2014, p. 36), people who went online had to consciously create their digital presence. My presence is currently weak and outdated. Importantly, the lack of busy-ness on my social media profiles indicates (erroneously) a lack of busy-ness in my professional life. I am not effectively engaging in what Goffman (cited in boyd, 2014, p.47) terms ‘impression management’ and the impression ‘given off’ is one of inactivity.

As I have noted previously, online identity creation is about words; as Sundén states, creating a digital persona is about ‘people typing themselves into being’ (quoted in boyd, 2012, p.37). Stearn’s point is similar ‘ communicators must consciously re present themselves online.’ (quoted in Barbour and Mitchell, 2012).

So, this week I have:

However, I’m competing in an arena where my peers are actively creating impressive impressions of themselves and their work. So, for me, it’s now not enough to simply ‘do’; I have to show and tell.

boyd. d. (2014). Identity: why do teens seem so strange online. It’s Complicated: the social lives of Networked Teens, pp. 54-76 Available (full ebook text) from: http://www.danah.org/books/ItsComplicated.pdf
Ronson, J. (2015) How one stupid tweet blew up Justine Sacco’s Life. New York Times, 12th February 2015. Available from: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/magazine/how-one-stupid-tweet-ruined-justine-saccos-life.html
Barbour, K.  and Marshall, D.  (2012) The academic online: constructing persona through the www.  First Monday, 17(9) [Online].  Available fromhttp://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3969/3292