Developing an online presence is becoming a new life task for 21st Century college students. It remains unclear, however, whether or not students are aware of both the positive and negative consequences that their postings on social media may have. Students post many positive depictions of their college experience and the fun they have with their friends. This can shed light into a person’s character, morals, interests, and values.
Positive social media use can help students show their value to admission counselors and potential employers. However, it is often the negative or “risky” behavior that students articulate across social media that has college administrators, potential employers, and admission counselors worried. When an administrator or admission counselor perceives a seemingly innocent post or picture negatively, it can result in the student not receiving a scholarship, internship, or admission to an institution.
Conflict exists as college students experience dissonance between their rights, expressions of speech and perceived privacy on the Internet. Colleges and universities are faced with the challenge of monitoring student behavior online while balancing student freedoms of expression and institutional policies. A question that challenges many Student Affairs professionals lies within an administrator’s philosophy surrounding student engagement.
- How and in what ways should we interact with students within online realm?
- Is it our job as administrators and educators to monitor student behavior online?
- If not, whose is it?
- Furthermore, as new research and articles define and further develop the concept of Digital Identity, a question remains: Is there a way to measure the impact of a student’s Digital Identity?
- Lastly, a question of congruency and empowerment may be challenging many professionals: How can educators empower students to become congruent, more aware, and safe while networking with peers and professionals as they experiment with new websites and applications?
Such questions are at the root of an important discussion that is taking place among Student Affairs professionals across the globe. These questions pertain to the need to educate college students on the impact of their digital identity. Students and professionals must understand that identity development is intertwined with online profiles and a person’s self-presenting identity. Students must be urged to strive for congruency, and, as a result, Student Affairs professionals must identify and assess best practices surrounding meeting students where they are at on the internet.
Defining Digital Identity
Social media provides a venue for identity construction. Digital Identity is a persona that one promotes digitally across social networks and networked communities. Students leave a digital footprint behind every time they interact with others online. It consists of the information that they create and choose to put out onto the World Wide Web. Digital identities are created via social media networking sites and are proving to be more than just a marketing tool for big business; they relentlessly contribute to a students’ personal and professional online brand and identity.
Theories surrounding student development must become innovative with new generational shifts. Identity construction should be thought about differently in the 21st Century than traditional development theories may have previously suggested. Social media is seductive, addictive, risky, and is rapidly changing the traditional landscape of the college experience. It’s also changing the way Student Affairs professionals conduct their work as guardians of student development. Social media will continue to impact student life, and is quickly becoming a most important life task of the American college student.
As gatekeepers, Student Affairs professionals, and Higher Education administrators provide access to opportunities and resources. They have the ability to purposefully challenge students in an effort to help them grow into globally engaged citizens that will facilitate positive social change. Digital identity development is a result of the social changes that have occurred within the Millennial generation and across college campuses nationwide. This marks Digital Identity as a new life task of the 21st Century college student. It is now the role of educators to improve their competencies in technology, social media, and generational shifts in order to continue to innovate best practices that will help students understand the impacts of their digital identity and its relationship to their development.
Originally Published with Citations at Making Progress with P. Max Quinn
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