What Your Profile Says About You Published 2008-04-01 under ,

What do you include in your online profiles? In a recent study, teens are happier with the way they look online than their real looks. Is this because they fabricate their online identities? Suggested in the recent Digital Natives post, "Profile of an Avatar: Teens and Online Identities", online profiles are not necessarily false but rather "constructed". We put in the things with which we want to be associated.

I list my occupation as "Trainer and Learning Modules Developer" in my Blogger profile. This is how I want to be identified. It is not false. I do train and I do create learning modules. But that is not all that I do; it does not give the full picture. I am not trying to be disingenuous, only that these activities are more relevant to my writings than my activities as website producer and administrative software designer.

Because your online profile is self-constructed snapshot of you, should we discount it as a true reflection of you? I would argue no. Who you want to be is as important as who you actually are. Shame on me if I rely solely on your online identity to hire you. But if I read that you are also a "Learning Modules Developer", I know we have an interest in common - regardless of how good or experienced a developer you really are.

Similarly, getting to know your students' online identities will offer insight into how they want to be seen. At a minimum, it will give you something to talk about with your students. "Hey Monica, I would have never thought of you as a dragon. Why did you select that as your avatar?"

In some cases, it will be the things missing from the profile that are more interesting than what is actually there. If you have a student who does really well in your writing class but there is no clue that this student is a writer from the online profile, I would want to know why. For many students, they don't see their success in the classroom as part of their identity other than perhaps in generalities like "I am good at science" or "I suck at math". Perhaps it will never make it to their online identities, but helping a student realize that he is a writer may help shape his future (on and offline) identity.

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