I am not a digital native, but I consider myself a digital enthusiast. Having instant access to more information that I could ever process, being able to learn about any topic imaginable and the opportunity to connect with friends and strangers around the world fills me with possibilities. In the end though, if we don’t use digital tools for a purpose then we squash all that possibility. I’ll be the first to admit that I have lost hours to watching laughing baby videos, scrolling through #DowntonAbbey feeds and looking up words and phrases I hear from college students on Urban Dictionary. This time is not completely wasted. The babies make me smile, #DowntonAbbey tweets provide entertainment and the Urban Dictionary definitions keep my face from turning red (at least some of the time). It’s such a powerful tool though. Wielding it requires focus. I’m trying to focus my digital presence and have developed a set of questions to guide me.
What’s your digital purpose? This is a big question. Our digital lives reflect our real lives and thus can have many facets. One of the struggles we face is figuring out how to separate, balance or integrate the personal and professional dimensions of our lives. Whichever stance you choose, it will help in defining your digital purpose. Another helpful question is, “What do you want to be known for?” Get as specific as possible.
Does the content you produce consistently align with your purpose? If a stranger conducts a search on your name, what does your digital identity say about you? If it is not want you want said, develop content that is consistent with who you are, what you care about and the mark you want to make.
How are you connecting with others who share or can advance your purpose? This is where things get exciting. The barriers for networking in the digital age are lower than ever. It must be stated that there’s still much work to be done to ensure people around the world have access to digital technologies. Nevertheless, it is easier than ever to connect with people with whom we have little or no connection, people we admire and people who share our interests. Leverage your network. This becomes much easier when your digital purpose is clear. Now, I am still working on all this for myself, but I have four friends who inspire me because their digital identities reflect a clear purpose (see below). Please share any good examples you can offer, too.
Duana Welch Ph.D. recently launched the book Love Factually: 10 Proven Steps from I Wish to I Do. It’s the first book to take men and women from before they meet until they decide to commit, based on science, and it fits her digital purpose to make relationship science accessible to everyone.
Martha Atkins Ph.D. writes, speaks, and leads conversations around death, dying, life after death, and living life as empowered humans. Check out her website. She calls us “shiny humans.” I love that.
In 2009, Samia and John Joseph founded Superhero Kids to address quality of life issues for children and their families battling cancer and blood disorders at the Children’s Blood and Cancer Center of Central Texas. Samia admits that her familiarity with social media was limited when they started, but she has learned to use it for the purpose of championing kid heroes.
I’m going to keep working until my digital purpose is clear. How about you?