Managing my Google identity; Digital Footprints report from Pew Internet & American Life

Susannah Fox, one of the most influential researchers in the work I do, sent me the latest report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, Pew Internet: Digital Footprints, which is very timely for me.

I wrote recently on this blog about the value of Google Juice as opposed to PubMed citations (with the belief that the former is more important than the latter today), which comes with it the need to manage one’s identity online, in a world that is less controlled than PubMed. The report comes out coincidentally at a time when I have been looking at my digital footprint. As my name is on the unique side, it’s more likely that I will be Google-recognizable. This is a double-edged sword – on the positive side, it’s easy to find me and the things I am working on. On the not so positive side, it’s easy to find criticism about me, if it exists. From that perspective, I would propose the words of William Swanson (allegedly), “If you are not criticized, you may not be doing much.”

There isn’t much criticism about me on Google, but there is from long ago, during a time when I was actively engaged in some groundbreaking (from my perspective) human rights improvements in the Seattle community. Some of my colleagues have “found” this information for me, and I have explained the background to them. In the end, there was greater understanding between everyone about the importance of reducing disparities not only in health care, but in all of society. The conversation it stimulated was a good one to have, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. In the future, when we think of people’s digital footprints, we will have to accept that there will be criticism with the praise, and I would argue that lack of criticism will be something to be worried about in a leader. This thinking will be vital if we want to support innovation and change for the better.

Without comparing myself to the great leaders of our time, I wonder what Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King, Jr.’s digital footprints would be like if they applied for a job in 2007? I am looking forward to creating a very rich digital footprint of reducing disparities in health and health care. Glass half-full.

Ted Eytan, MD