The combination of studying the social theory of privacy and the looming onset of my work as a teacher is causing me to agonise over aspects of my cyber footprint. There is nothing negative about me written on the internet, and by my own estimations, I've not produced anything particularly unsavoury. The problem is that 'my own estimations' will need to be de-prioritised, focusing more on how others receive me, if only to give me an easier ride as a young teacher.
Teachers have traditionally been seen as the flagbearers of morality, which is quite contentious for those who, for whatever reason, fall outside the bounds of convention. This could be expressed through religion, sexuality or subculture, for example, but could also relate to more stylistic aspects of selfhood, like whether you have tattoos, how you wear your clothes and so on. A tattoo is not revolutionary, but from my experience at least, it is 'unteacherly'. We live in a society that is far more pluralistic and individualistic than the teaching population represents, largly because it is felt - at an almost taken-for-granted level - that teachers are meant to behave in a particular set of ways. These expectations include professionalism, but move beyond that into personal lives outside the school.
The prospect of soon being a teacher got me feeling self-conscious about what I had written and my considerable cyber footprint. For one thing, I am going to be changing the name of this blog very soon in order to remove my name from the content. Nothing I've written is unsavoury but it is a matter of whom I am comfortable seeing my thoughts.
My original intention for this blog was to publicise it widely, but I decided against this in favour of making it a personalised talking shop, with self-referential comments that most people reading this - friends and acquaintances and their friends and acquiantances - might understand or at least appreciate.
I stand by the points I have made about children drinking alcohol and the need to mobilise against homophobia, but these comments were written in the context of an anticipated liberal thought-sharing environment. Not to say that the school communities won't echo these values, but simply, I wouldn't want to feel that I was obliged to defend these views as though I was a spokesperson for a nihilistic ethics or an egalitarian worldview. I will surely be expressing these values, but I wouldn't want to feel obliged to do so, as a result of my cyber footprint being understood as statements of my intentions, as declarations of my politics or as battlecries for justice.
I've got some pretty good stuff in my cyber footprint. Volunteering awards and creative writing, published articles and charity websites. Lovely me. But somewhere in the depths of the internet, I know there is a website I made about my love for the muppets when I was about 11. There was a cringey sports website we made for our basketball team. There are really bad instances of poetry. There are grammatical mistakes which now shame me. There are ill-thought out view points. There are hyperbolic responses formed from the ash of the heat of the moment.
The problem I am facing pertains to how this cyber footprint relates to me. Should it be understood as my constituent parts? Or is it more like an archive, its merits understood within its context? If the cyber footprint is to be inspected by future employers, should I be wanting to trim off all my more embarassing and retrospectively regrettable contributions to the internet, in order to appease some imagined other who will have certain expectations of me, or else should I attempt to maintain some integrity by keeping it all there?