Digital footprints, or what I learned from the Internet

The Internet is a stalker’s playground for the taking. We don’t always consider just how much information we make readily available to people. Normally I don’t mind if my friends read on Facebook just how much I like eating cheese or how I enjoy quoting Flavor Flav when the mood strikes. But I sometimes lose sight that a potential employer could see this, too. Those people don’t need to hear me say “Ya boiiiii” until after they hire me.

Then there is the information we don’t control. Articles about us, pictures our friends put up…this too is available for anyone who takes the time to really look.

All of this information—the online content we can and can’t control—comprises what is called our “digital footprints.”

I wanted to see just how much I could find out about my friend and classmate by simply Googling her name and a couple other key words, such as “USC.” Half of her online image is that of accolades and professionalism. The other half—not so much. See for yourself:

Anita Little attended Southwest High School in Forth Worth, Texas. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported in 2007 that Anita was one of nine students in her area to win a $2,500 scholarship in a National Merit Scholarship Corporation competition for African-American youth.

The same year, in August 2007, Little created a Blogger account. The blog was short-lived, and appears to have been a class project for which Little reviewed different types of web sites, including Youtube and a news site called The Falling Times. Her profile information reveals several biographical facts, including how she has lived in Forth Worth all her life, the name of her mother (Felicia) and the name of her dog (Phoenix). She also lists her favorite movies (Hotel Rwanda, Little Miss Sunshine and The Officer and the Gentleman) and indicates an early affinity for the Trojan Marching Band.

Little’s Facebook tells us that she was born on December 6, 1988, is Christian-Catholic and is married to Andrea Andy Lee, although it also says that she interested in men. In the “About Me” section, she wrote, “Armed with a venti caramel macchiato and an AP style book, I can save the world.” She is a member of 58 Facebook groups, including: “Raisins, Get the Fuck out of my Cookies,” “Live it Up Now: Because After College it’s Called Alcoholism,” “I Refer to People by Nicknames They Will Never Know” and “I Picked a Major I Like, and One Day I Will Probably Be Living in a Box.” Her Facebook groups also reveal that she deeply appreciates Mrs. Weasley from Harry Potter, she wants to help her friend Prith get his pants back, she was concerned for the captive American journalists in North Korea, she misses her dog and that she was an Annenberg Scholar.

The USC Annenberg site wrote in 2008 that Little attended the UNITY ’08 conference, a gathering for journalists of color in Chicago, where she attended a press conference with Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade.
 Little attended the conference as a Johnson Scholar, an organization she was inducted into as an incoming freshman. African-American publishing company Johnson Publishing, which prints Ebony and Jet magazines, donated $2.5 million to USC Annenberg to fund curriculum for aspiring black journalists. A National Public Radio article said Little and one other student, Leigh Lockhart, were the pioneering recipients of the scholarships included under the umbrella of the donation. According to the same article, Little finished in the top 1 percent of her graduating class in high school.

One online article quotes Anita: “‘I was really surprised and honored to be given the scholarship,'” said recipient Anita Little, a freshman majoring in print journalism. ‘It was an instrumental part in me coming to the school.'”

During the 2008 election season, Little blogged twice for the blog Pop and Politics. Her first post focused on the over-hyping of Obama’s middle name, Hussein. In her second and last piece, she sentimentally reflected on how Obama’s election deeply impacted her.

On May 19, 2009, Little created a Twitter account called fenix_rising. Her last post was from July 14: “i really wish i had finished those animal fries from in-and-out…. :(”

This year Little is the editor-in-chief of Black Voices. According to its web site, it is “the official publication of the African American community at USC.” She also wrote for the lifestyles section of USC’s The Daily Trojan.

Just this past week, ran an op-ed by Little that analyzed the impact of Tyra Banks coming out on her talk show and revealing her real hair, untouched by a straightening iron or products. Little relates in her post that she, like other African-American girls, grew up with the impression that she should strive for straight and glossy hair like Tyra’s and other African-American women on television. According to the site’s About Us section, Little is the editorial intern and “has aspirations of becoming a foreign correspondent specializing in human rights issues.”


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