Thing 3 involved looking at my online identity – the facts that can be gleaned about me from various websites. As Georgina said in the introductory video, a person’s online identity is fluid, and changes over time, so this is something I will need to remember to monitor occasionally in the future.

I started off by Googling my name. I’ve done this a few times in the past, and have noticed that gradually more of the search results have referred to me. This is partly because I’ve created more public profiles e.g. on social media, and because I’ve appeared on workplace websites, but I suspect it is also because Google has got more clever – it knows who I am and it shows me what it thinks I want to see. I do wonder if a complete stranger (i.e. someone not connected to me via a workplace or social media) would get the same results. Additionally, my results are always a bit odd anyway – as my surname is ‘Middle’, it tends to show a lot of results containing text such as ‘First name: Sarah, middle name:…’.

Anyway, on to my most recent search – I started off by searching for “Sarah Middle”, which produced the following top 10 results:

  1. My Twitter account
  2. My LinkedIn account
  3. Images, mostly of me (and mostly from my theatre group’s website)
  4. List of LinkedIn accounts with my name
  5. List of Facebook accounts with my name
  6. The Facebook account for another Sarah Middle
  7. Contact Us page for my most recent workplace
  8. My Academia.edu page (which I really need to update)
  9. My Bawds (theatre group) profile
  10. One of my Bawds photo pages

Of the image results, most of the first few rows were actually me, which dwindled later on, due to photos where someone called Sarah was in the middle. I was also surprised to see quite a few photos of other people that appear on the same page as photos of me.

I then tried searching for ‘”Sarah Middle” Cambridge’ to see if the results were any different (position in the previous top 10 in brackets):

  1. My Twitter account (1)
  2. Contact Us page for my most recent workplace (7)
  3. My LinkedIn account (2)
  4. A blog post I wrote on the Jisc website
  5. My Academia.edu page (8)
  6. List of Facebook accounts with my name (5)
  7. A couple of pages with the words ‘Sarah’ and ‘middle’ next to each other, specifically from Cambridge-based websites
  8. A blog post someone from the DCC (Digital Curation Centre) wrote about a talk I did at a conference (I didn’t know about this so it was a nice surprise!)
  9. Another page with the words ‘Sarah’ and ‘middle’ next to each other

Interestingly there were far fewer relevant results when ‘Cambridge’ was included, which shows that my online presence is not necessarily restricted to Cambridge. However, it also did not include the less ‘professional’ results, like the pages from my theatre group. Although I live in (the vicinity of) Cambridge, I doubt that much online material relating to me will also relate to Cambridge in the near future, as my institutional affiliation is now the Open University.

Next, I checked my email addresses on www.haveibeenpwned.com, to see if they have been compromised in any way, and found that my main email address has been ‘pwned’ three times, due to large-scale data leakage from major companies I’d signed up to. I do still need this account but have changed the password since these events. This is definitely a good website to keep an eye on in future.

Looking at my online presence has been an interesting way of seeing what trails I leave on the web (notwithstanding the potential bias due to Google search algorithms). I was quite glad to see that (at least to me) I seem to have the largest web presence of any Sarah Middle, but knowing this means that I need to be very careful about the information I provide, especially in pages that feature particularly highly. This means ensuring that I keep my profiles up to date, and that I don’t write anything too ridiculous. I’m also hoping that my theatre group pages (with their annoyingly good SEO!) will eventually fall down the rankings as I start to publish my work, or provide more information in my online profiles.

Googling myself occasionally should be a good way of keeping track of the information about me that is both publicly available and readily accessible, and checking haveibeenpwned will let me know if I need to change my email password due to security breaches. I’ve added a reminder to my calendar to check both of these every three months, to see how my online presence changes over time.

23 Research Things: Thing 3 – Managing your online identity
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