Put Your Best Foot Forward

© Learning ZoneXpress
View Transcript
Hide Transcript
GIRL: It’s so easy to share things now. You know, you can just take a picture on your phone and it can be sent over the web, or text, or anything in seconds. That’s what scares me. Because things happen really fast and you don’t have control over it, no matter how much you think you do. GIRL 2: Even if you delete your post, or even if you, like, unfriend that person or something, speaking in the terms of Facebook, like you’re, what you’ve made public will always be public. Like, it really is a footprint that is everlasting, and it’s difficult to go back and change that once it’s been made.

The digital world certainly has its pitfalls, so successfully navigating it calls for shrewdness and savvy. But when used properly, powerful digital media can open up an array of limitless possibilities. In this world, amazing achievements, even by one person, can have a global impact.

A Worldwide Platform

Digital communication technology has given everyone a new, potentially worldwide audience. For example, a person might create a blog, or online journal, about natural pet care for just a few friends to read. Suddenly, that blog can be transmitted to pet lovers across the world who are interested in the subject. Faraway readers can comment on the blog and ask questions. The author can respond and might be encouraged to share additional insights on natural pet care by writing more entries. People with an interest in natural health care for pets may then decide to form a network to exchange information about the key points raised in the blog.

The blog author’s thoughtful commentary and creative ideas will become part of a digital footprint. In the future, the blogger may use it to present her work to potential employers or college admissions officers. It can reveal another side or hidden talent that might otherwise be concealed in a world without a digital platform.

The same is true of creative pursuits in the world of music, film, literature, and art. Today, people can take work they are proud of and present it to the world without having to go through an agent, record producer, publisher, or distributor. Creative people literally have open access to a world stage.

The digital footprint of Julie Powell loomed large in a very positive way. In August 2002 she started a blog that documented her attempt to make all the recipes in Julia Child’s classic cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The goal was to make all 524 recipes in the book over the course of one year.

The effort would probably never have gotten under way if Powell had no one to tell about her day-to-day trials and tribulations, as well as followers to cheer her on. That could only be accomplished through digital communication, which both showcased and recorded her kitchen adventures. The blog had a small following at first but then picked up an avid fan base. The blog led to a book deal and a major movie, Julie & Julia, starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep.

Crafting an Online Portfolio

The Internet provides many opportunities for creative people to save and share their work. In order for online work to be judged properly and fairly, it must be presented professionally. Proper spelling, punctuation, and grammar are essential when presenting written work. Any accompanying photos must be clear and in good taste.

By the same token, musical productions should have an air of professionalism when put online. They have to be planned properly, look and sound sharp, and be simple to download. Like record demos of years ago, an artist or group’s early productions should be put together to showcase the talent of the creators.

These digital productions can serve as a portfolio or archive for those who created them. While the pieces may be raw and lack polish, they should be done tastefully and serve as positive promotional pieces.

These elements of a digital footprint can help to track an individual’s personal and creative growth. As people hone their talents, it will show in their creative pursuits. The work will get better and better, and the digital artifacts will be the yardstick by which others measure that growth.

Too Much Information

While the World Wide Web has opened up new venues for creativity, it has also pierced the expectation of privacy. No matter how technically advanced communication gets, there are still some things that should remain private and not the subject of online conversations, blogs, or social networking sites.

There is no guarantee of privacy online: when conversations, opinions, and photographs are put online, they are there for everyone to see. The Internet cannot be confused with another creative tool, a handwritten diary. With a paper diary, people can record their most private thoughts and then keep the diary under lock and key in a dresser drawer. E-mails, text messages, and blog posts have a way of becoming public, even if that does not happen right after they are sent or posted. These digital writings, which the author might think of as private communications and closed to the world, are difficult if not impossible to eliminate from cyberspace. Long forgotten text messages, e-mails, and posts can resurface and cause tense, if not outright embarrassing, moments for the writer. These writings become a permanent part of a person’s digital footprint, along with any photographs and videos associated with them.

The same attention that goes into creative endeavors intended for a wide audience has to be paid to even the most casual communications in the digital world. Before posting an item or e-mailing anything, a person has to ask: If this post or e-mail were accidentally released to the public, would it leave a bad impression of me? Some experts have recommended giving an item the “grandparent test.” Ask yourself: Would I be proud or embarrassed if my grandparents were to see this? Sad as it may be, bad impressions travel faster than good ones and can do substantial damage.

No Expectation of Privacy

Consider the case of Cynthia Moreno. Her family had to move out of their hometown of Coalinga, California, in 2005 after Moreno, then a college student, made some unflattering statements about the town on her MySpace page. The family received death threats, and people stopped doing business with Moreno’s father, which seriously hurt the family’s income. The blog post was intended for just a few people to see and was posted for only six days. However, Roger Campbell, Moreno’s former principal at Coalinga High School, read the post. Campbell sent the piece on to the Coalinga Record, a local newspaper, which published it and named Cynthia Moreno as the author.

Town residents were enraged by Moreno’s rant about hating the town and lashed out at the entire family, which included a younger sister. The Moreno family sued the principal, the school district, and the newspaper, claiming, among other things, invasion of privacy. The California Fifth District Court of Appeals ruled against the Morenos in 2009. The court held that because Cynthia Moreno posted her comments on a MySpace blog, what she wrote was available for anyone with a computer to read. In doing so, she knowingly put the material in the public eye. With that in mind, the court went on to rule that Moreno should have had no expectation of privacy.

The lesson to be learned from Cynthia Moreno and Julie Powell is this: When you go online you are never alone. For better or for worse, anything posted in cyberspace can go viral.

Blogging Tips

Starting a blog is a great way for young writers to practice their craft and share their work with others. Follow these tips so that a blog helps, rather than harms, your digital footprint.

  • Keep blog entries fun, light, and on popular subjects.

  • Be creative, but stay on topic.

  • Avoid divulging personal information.

  • Show your best side by using proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

  • Steer clear of offensive language and rants.

  • If someone makes an inappropriate comment on your blog, do not respond. Delete the comment. If necessary, block the person from commenting in the future.

  • Set up your blog so that it is password-protected. Only people with whom you have shared the password will be able to read the blog. Ask a parent, teacher, or librarian for help with the setup.