What is Online or Digital Footprint: Definition and Examples

  • By Bree Ann Russ
  • Aug 19, 2022

digital footprint

An online digital footprint is a digital history and reputation that follows you whenever you interact with anything online. It includes all your social media posts, comments, likes, shares, images, videos, blog posts, and more. Some also call it an online reputation or electronic reputation. 

An online digital footprint is essentially what others see when they look you up online or view your social media accounts. Since you may not want specific people seeing every detail of your private life, it’s important to monitor your online presence.

What is a Digital Footprint?

As the name suggests, a digital footprint is the long-term collection of digital data that someone leaves behind when using the Internet. You may also see it phrased as an online digital record. Digital footprint examples can include everything from a person’s email address to their social media posts, comments, and website visits.

Your digital footprint is essential for finding employment, maintaining professional relationships, and even finding a place to live. While having a positive digital footprint is important, there is only so much you can do to change any online information from your past.

How is a Digital Footprint Different Than an Online Reputation?

The basic digital footprint definition is a record of who you are and what you do online. Your digital footprint can be your social media posts, email addresses, websites, and other electronic footprints that trace your digital activity. 

An online reputation is the public perception of you or your business. It's the collection of all the information people have about you—from your website to job references to professional certifications. Your online reputation can be positive or negative, and it can significantly impact how people view you. 

A digital footprint is a lot more accessible than an online reputation. Anyone can access your digital footprint if they know where to look. It’s much easier for someone to damage your online reputation than it is for them to damage your digital footprint, which is hidden on the internet behind passwords and security measures.

Why is Monitoring Your Digital Footprint Important?

You may be surprised at what people find when they look your name up online. Your digital footprint is a treasure trove of information that potential employers, landlords, and others can use to find out more about you. 

A quick online search of your name might even lead people to information that dates back to childhood or even your high school days. Unfortunately, it may also include information about you that is either outdated or completely incorrect. 

It’s important to monitor your online presence so that you can remove or edit incorrect information whenever possible. An online digital footprint may also be called an online reputation or electronic reputation.

How to Monitor Your Online Footprint

There are several ways to monitor your digital footprint. First, you can also use Google Alerts to keep an eye on how you are discussed online. The alerts will send you emails when new content about you is published. 

Next, you can also use social media to keep track of your reputation. If you have a public social media profile, you can set up notifications to receive emails whenever someone comments on your posts. Notifications allow you to respond quickly to any negative comments or reviews. 

You can also use social media to your advantage by posting positive content about your life. For example, you can post stories about volunteering in your community on your social media channels. These stories help boost your positive digital footprint or can help bury a negative digital footprint under posts that show improvements in your life. They may also bring new opportunities to light to help expand your reach.

How Search Engines & Social Media Monitor Your Online Activity

example of a online footprint

When you search for someone on the Internet, you may be redirected to their social media pages or other sites that host their content. This is because search engines like Google use algorithms to determine how relevant a piece of information is. 

Social media sites like Facebook and Instagram monitor your online behaviors. Each of these sites has a way of determining what information is relevant and what is not. The sites often remove posts that they deem inappropriate and others flag as inappropriate. 

When you post information to sites like Facebook and Twitter, the search engines will index your post to be easily accessible. This means that the search engine will store the post and make it easily searchable through their website. When you tag someone in a post or upload an image with someone else, the search engines will also store this information.

You are furthering your online reputation when you engage in activities like tagging people in posts, using keywords in your bios, posting images that have geo-locations, and using hashtags.

What Outsiders Can Do with Your Online Data

When sharing information online, you should also consider who else can access it. Once you post something online, it can be easily accessed and even republished elsewhere. 

Whatever you post online, outsiders have access to. These breadcrumbs of information about you add up to a more complete profile about who you are. People can look through items like pictures you post, comments you make, and locations you talk about to gather a lot of information about you. Consider the fact that you may have information like this online: 

  • Your name
  • The town you live in
  • If you are married or not, and to whom if you are
  • How many kids you have
  • Your political stance
  • Your favorite restaurants
  • Names of your pets
  • Favorite vacation destinations
  • Your birthday
  • And so much more

If you are like most people, some combination of this information will lead a hacker to your passwords for many of your important accounts. Plus, people can more easily steal your identity with these tidbits of information since it is easier to pretend to be you!

Your Digital Footprint Says a Lot About You

When you are online, you leave digital footsteps that others can see. Your online presence could include everything from your social media posts to your online reviews and more. The length of digital history you have varies but can date back years. 

Be careful what you post, comment on, and search for online. The last thing you want is to comment on a post in jest, only to have it cost you a job in the future. For help monitoring your digital footprint, consider investing in identity monitoring services. That way, you’re aware of any inaccurate information about you online. Plus, you can get alerts should anyone try to use information from your digital footprint!

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