Student and counselor reflect on digital footprint awareness

Being aware of one’s digital footprint is important- and here’s why


Emily Levine, Journalism student

She walked out of the office, teary-eyed and distraught. How could this have happened to her, of all people?

She wished she could unclick that button, delete the post, and go back in time to change things. 

She vowed to never post on social media again. 

5 minutes later, there was zero social media on her phone. But not for long. 

She was fired. 

This was the impact of the situation on the student’s internet etiquette. 

The need to be aware of one’s digital footprint increases as technology progresses. For one student, her lack of awareness surrounding her digital footprint cost her her job. 

After an incident involving Snapchat and someone screenshotting private story posts, this student found herself without a job and wondering how she could’ve avoided this. She deleted her social media as a reaction because she was so distraught. 

After learning that she was scheduled to work with a new employee, whom she had history with, she posted her feelings about the situation and disregarded who was going to view the post. 

She learned that her friend was not her friend. The “friend” screenshotted her post, sent it to their boss, claimed that she was “intimidating” the new employee, and got her fired. 

She felt betrayed, as this was supposed to be a “private” story post. It was supposed to be a space to freely express her opinions, without receiving judgment from others. 

Because of how early technology was introduced to Generation Z, we are constantly reminded to be mindful of what is posted. The student felt that she was warned more so about posting alcohol, drugs, and other illegal activities, rather than posting her thoughts on other people and things. 

“Don’t post anything you don’t want your parents to see,” said the student. 

When asked about the impact of this situation on the student’s internet etiquette now, the student stated that they deleted all social media after getting fired. 

This didn’t last long, as social media is the primary way people communicate with one another now. This makes internet etiquette even more important. 

However, the internet has become a great platform in terms of expressing opinions on much bigger issues. 

When the death of George Floyd occurred in 2020, social media became the primary way of advocatingoon due to the pandemic. Even still, advocacy on social media has become an excellent way to reach many people at once. It has also made a significant impact in politics, as most people are very active on social media. 

Jennifer Nuechterlein, College and Career counselor at Hunterdon Central, believes that students have done a good job representing themselves in a mature light at Central, eliminating the need to educate students about digital footprint. Nuechterlein said it really only had to be addressed when Instagram first took off, 8-10 years ago.

Aside from jeopardizing job opportunities, lack of awareness of one’s digital footprint can also influence their college or post-high school plans.  

While there have been instances at other schools, Nuechterlein said there have not been any at Central. 

However, there was one incident that involved mockery of the death of George Floyd, where two students posted in a monkey mask, imitating the way in which George Floyd died. 

While freedom of speech is one thing, this incident violated the school code of conduct and discipline was necessary. This was a much different situation. 

Nuechterlein also stated that schools don’t look through students’ social media as much, simply because they don’t have the staff to do so. 

Regardless, “Clean up your presence,” said Nuechterlein, “Be smart about it.”