Digital Tattoos for Everyone!

Privacy. It’s a challenging topic especially in the digital world we live in. This week I read fellow COETAILer Erin’s blog  post about digital footprints being more akin to a digital tattoo. Her comparison to her own body tattoo, resonated with me. Not because I also have a tattoo but because it makes much more sense to me than the analogy of digital footprints. While I do understand them being like trails, for my 3rd grade students, the concept is a little abstract. Tattoos however, are not. I feel like at this age, this might be a more tangible metaphor for them to grasp.

My tattoo, photo credit Megan Looney

My tattoo, photo credit Megan Looney

In Juan Enrique’s Ted Talk, “Your Online Life, Permanent as a Tattoo,” he shared that our digital lives are more like a tattoo than we think they are.  He says our tattoos come from stories, are beautiful and can be mistakes. All of these are accurate. When applied, as Juan does so wonderfully, they are much more like our online lives than many of us would like to admit. Many times though, in articles the comparison stops at social media…Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Juan reminds us it goes further than this into areas such as “credit cards, security cameras and credit scores.” I think that’s where many areas most of us forget are included in our online presence.

We can’t escape having a presence now. From our banking to our travel plans for upcoming breaks to taking public transportation, we leave tattoos. Evan Ratliff even tried to vanish in our digital world. He spent over 2 months making plans to escape. He created a false identity, address and business cards to help build his fake digital identify. He created a Facebook profile and established “friends” on it. It took people several weeks to find him but even with all the effort and time he put forth, people still found him. He, even when trying to escape his identity, could not. That’s a bit scary that our lives, down to the cameras we use (Ratliff references someone was able to use his Flickr account data to determine what kind of camera he used in his “old life), are part of our online lives.

Watching Ratliff’s talk caused me a bit of concern. First for myself but also for my 3rd grade students. How can I create a way to help them understand their footprints will develop into tattoos? They are only 8-10 years old after all. I did a bit of searching and found another COETAILer Joel Bevan’s post on digital footprints versus digital tattoos. At the end of his post, he shares some sage advice which I’ll use with my students as they continue to post more of our class social media and also as we move into our nonfiction writing and reading research unit.  He ends with 4 simple questions but each that’s important and easy for my students to understand, “T: Is it True? H: Is it Helpful? I: Is it Inspiring? N: Is it Necessary? K: Is it Kind?

Joel’s advice made me think back to the first day of school. My students inquired about my tattoo. I shared the story of it with them. I told them I took my time to really reflect and think about what kind of artwork I wanted. I told them that I had to research for images I found helped to portray my idea. Then I had to research tattoo artists that had experience creating this kind of design. Hopefully these are similar steps, even just the idea of slowing down and being reflective are helpful when posting anything on social media. And actually Joel’s questions might be helpful not just for digital citizenship but also for people considering a new tattoo…




You may also like...

1 Response

  1. I’m guilty of using the term digital footprint myself. And yet, you (and the others) have raised excellent points about it being more akin to a tatttoo at times. Footprints get erased, eroded, trampled up or washed over at the beach only to be made anew. Whereas some of our posts, mistakes, achievements, etc stick with us in a semi-permanent nature.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *