Steps In the Right Direction

How digital footprint affects your future… one step at a time


A group of students scroll on social media during lunch. Photo by Elizabeth Cleary.

Looking into the future, whether that involves getting a job or applying to college, your potential employers or admissions officers might be shocked to see your Harry Styles fanpage on Instagram, flashing over one thousand followers all invested in your next thirst-post over Harry’s abs.

Collins Dictionary defines “digital footprint” as the information about a person that can be retrieved from the internet. In the hands of an employer or admissions officer, this information can either be beneficial or detrimental, making a well-curated online presence crucial to your future.

Katherine Keegan, a counselor at Lindbergh High School, has knowledge regarding the impact that a negative digital footprint holds. The denial from a job, or a college especially, is a big deal, and luckily, one that can be avoided. However, Keegan believes that most students are not aware of how their footprint affects their future, their ability to get into colleges and to be considered for other opportunities.

“Every student needs to think about that,” said Keegan. “Maybe it won’t affect college admissions, but if you’re applying for a competitive scholarship at a university then there’s a great chance that they will deep dive into your social media.”

Keegan feels that the number one mistake students make when posting on social media is not thinking before they post. College admissions officers and employers tend to look for negative or offensive content or posts wherein illegal activity is taking place.

“If you wouldn’t want your grandma to see it, you probably don’t want to post it,” offered Keegan.

According to Wink News, a local Florida news outlet, a teen’s college acceptance was denied after a social media post that targeted two people of color. The University of Florida rescinded their acceptance letter to this student, stating that while you may have the freedom of speech, there could be consequences derived from the things that you say or post.

Similarly, PR Newswire in Chicago states that around 90% of employers look at candidates’ social media accounts, and 79% of those employers have turned away potential employees after viewing their accounts.
With countless horror stories demonstrating the downward spiral that results from a negative online presence, it is essential to create a positive image on any given social media account. Megan Manaj, a 12th grade student who has been accepted to Washington University in St. Louis, sheds some light on how to best do this.

“I would definitely say I just post socially acceptable things, in that sense. I don’t post anything that’s too controversial or too political, and then I also don’t post things in bad environments,” Manaj said. “I always keep things very clean and PG.”

Manaj has always been alert to the possibility of universities viewing her social accounts. She does believe, however, that many people are not mindful of their footprint, whether they simply don’t realize its effect or whether they just don’t care.

“For the most part, I would agree that my peers have positive digital footprints, but I would also say that some of my peers don’t care what they post online and will post things of them at parties,” Manaj commented.

Digital presence is very pressing in this day and age, with colleges and professional companies keeping an eye on hateful, immature, or illegal content, presentation becoming evident in students’ lives. In their eyes, having a social media presence that reflects your best self is essentially the same as attending a job interview showered, well prepared and in an ironed suit. As the future encroaches, thought must go into how you can best iron out the wrinkles in your digital footprint in order to ensure your success.